Forterra News

International Women’s Day 2022: celebrating two of Forterra’s women

This International Women’s Day, we are celebrating two Forterra women forging a path for others to follow.

Currently, women make up just 15% of the manufacturing industry workforce and only 11% of the construction industry. It’s something that Operations Management Graduate Laura Watts and Plant Manager of our Newbury facility, Nicki Durrans, hope to see change.

Laura Watts – Operations Management Graduate

Laura, 24, joined Forterra’s graduate scheme in September 2021 after graduating from Coventry University with a degree in Business Management. A year’s placement in the automotive industry confirmed to Laura that she wanted to pursue a career in manufacturing.

As part of her graduate training, Laura is currently working in a senior position at our King’s Dyke brick factory and says that she has never felt out of place in the role, “Forterra encourages diversity and inclusivity and is not shy about recognising that the industry has historically been male-dominated. It is serious about addressing this by making the organisation attractive to women.

“When I researched the organisation, I saw multiple examples of women in senior positions who had earned promotions internally and it inspired me.

“I feel at home at an organisation that takes this seriously and provides such opportunities to women – telling them that they will do well if they are good enough, in the same way the opportunity is there for men. I think this push for diversity is impressive, and I have seen strong and talented women being recruited into the business in the short time I’ve been working here. I can see a clear career path into becoming a Plant Manager, which is my long-term goal. I have seen other women at Forterra who are fulfilling their potential as a result of opportunities available, and I want to achieve the same.”

Laura’s advice to any woman interested in a career in manufacturing, but who might be hesitant to apply: “Take a risk and don’t put yourself off the unknown – try it! Anytime I’ve taken a risk it’s led to new and interesting opportunities, and I hope other women will do the same and find themselves in roles and industries they are passionate about.”

Nicki Durrans – Plant Manager

Nicki, 38, has been working in the manufacturing industry for 18 years in a broad range of roles, including health and safety, human resources and quality assurance.

After joining Forterra in 2020, Nicki was quickly promoted from production manager to plant manager of our Thermalite manufacturing site in Newbury.

Nicki says that although she understands the perception that a male dominated industry could create barriers for women, it hasn’t been her own experience, “My eyes are not closed to the prejudice that does exist – I have often called it out when I’ve seen or heard it – however, I believe it is usually a case of unconscious biases and perceptions, which most people accept and understand when they are spoken to about it.

“I think there is a perception that women can only work in certain departments and roles; for example, roles that are perceived as physically demanding are often seen as a ‘man’s job’. In my experience, however, it is just down to the individual – gender doesn’t come into it.”

Nicki felt encouraged to apply for a job with Forterra after speaking to a friend and Forterra employee who told Nicki about the company’s track record of promoting women within the business into senior roles, and of the processes in place to ensure women across the business are recognised and biases challenged.

Nicki says, “Knowing that a traditionally male-dominated organisation is doing a lot to promote women sold it to me instantly. My experience of working at Forterra’s Newbury site has only reinforced my positive opinion of the company. Not only was I promoted very quickly, but I have been able to promote and recruit women into roles I believe they will do well in.”

Nicki’s advice for women looking to enter the manufacturing industry: “Don’t let your – or other people’s – perception of these industries stop you! There are opportunities for men and women alike. If, like me, you have a passion for manufacturing and a determination to succeed, then any potential barriers are easy to navigate, and this is especially true here at Forterra.”

Forterra Chief Executive, Stephen Harrison, says, “As an organisation, we endeavour to stamp out the age-old stereotype that the manufacturing industry is male dominated – we have many women who work out on our sites as well as in office-based roles.

“We have a range of opportunities here and we want to remind women that every one of them is open to them, and if they believe they are capable then they should apply – gender never has been, and never will be, a barrier.

“Both Laura and Nicki are amazing case studies for this year’s International Women’s Day, and set an example for the rest of the industry to follow.”

To find out more about careers at Forterra, visit our Careers page