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“You end up talking a bit more crudely, but it’s fine,” Ann Norunn Walaker chuckles in answering the question of what it is like to be a woman at such a male-dominated workplace.

The shift worker has operated the saw in the casthouse at Årdal for 12 ½ years, and has over 22 years of work experience within Årdal’s factory gates.

Best in Hydro

Walaker is not the only woman at the Årdal plant. With 160 women in a total workforce of 840, Årdal tops Hydro’s list of plants with a high percentage of women.

“It started off as a summer job. And then it was natural to come back here after school and continue working,” Camilla Nordli explains. The 30-year-old has now worked for 11 years as a potroom operator at Årdal. She is currently working day shifts as an operator, with maintenance and cell start-up among her main responsibilities.

"There are a great many women who work day shifts, and that’s good. It means we have each other.” Even though it is still a male-dominated branch she works in, Nordli says she thoroughly enjoys her job.

“It can be male-dominated, but you get tougher. It felt a bit strange in the beginning, but you adjust to the eight to ten hour shifts, so it’s no problem.”

“Gender irrelevant”

Wenche Agerup has just accepted a project manager position in Australia, which means that she is leaving her position as plant manager in Årdal on January 1 next year. But for the time being she is the only female plant manager at Hydro’s metal plants.

What has it been like to be head of a workplace that has traditionally been very male-dominated?

“I was in suspense before I started here, wondering how I would be received and how it would work out. But after I arrived, I haven’t given it any more thought; it has gone very well. The culture here means that it’s not an issue – people here emphasize other things than gender. It’s the results that count,” Agerup comments.

In Agerup’s view, it’s important to have a gender balance in all parts of the organization.

“It contributes to giving a workplace additional perspectives and greater diversity. A team thrives more and achieves better results when there is a mixture of genders, ages and backgrounds,” Agerup says.

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