Ahead of International Women’s Day this Friday, we spotlight several women involved in different aspects of glass manufacturing. They discuss their perspectives of the industry, and how more women can be encouraged to pursue a career in glass.

**This is an abridged version of an article which will appear in full in a forthcoming issue.**

Verallia

Raffaella Pescio (see below) was appointed Verallia’s Group Deputy Technical Director for Batch and Furnace operations in October 2022.

She and her team monitor the 63 furnaces within Verallia, from the design phase to the operational management. This is to improve the performance of the plants, solve issues and eventually debug any emergencies.

Ms Pescio said she discovered the industry while studying at university, and joined Verallia in 1995. She started her career in Chalon sur Saone, the biggest factory of the group, before working at Verallia in her home country of Italy for 25 years.

“When I started my career, at least in Italy, I was the first woman to get a position in the production process as an engineer. Therefore, some of my colleagues were surprised or disbelieved to see a woman in this technical environment. Fortunately, I have always found managers with a great innovative spirit who were able to open doors for me.”

“I must admit that for some roles, such as quality controls and monitoring of process parameters, some typical characteristics of the female gender help to improve the precision of monitoring for instance!”

Raffaella Pescio, Group Deputy Technical Director for Batch and Furnace operations at Verallia.

O-I

Alyssa Bender (see left), Batch and Furnace Manager at O-I Zanesville, knew before university that she wanted to work with glass.

She has worked in the industry for almost nine years, starting out as a Combustion Engineer, a position that she held for around four years.

While she wouldn’t say her position as a Batch and Furnace Manager is unusual for a woman in the glass industry, she agrees that it’s rare to meet another woman working in furnace operations.

“It’s not a role that typically gets a lot of limelight, so perhaps there are more women than realised. It also takes a certain type of person to work in batch and furnace. It can be a challenging process that takes determination.

“A highlight of my role, that never grows old, would simply be any time you establish glass flow after a furnace rebuild/repair. There’s not another feeling quite like it. It’s such a huge cathartic moment for an entire team of people that have put so much hard work into accomplishing such a massive project together.”

Alyssa Bender, Batch and Furnace Manager at O-I.

Şişecam

Merve Gökçe (see below), Flat Glass Forming Operator at Şişecam’s Polatli plant, was the first woman to ever pull glass at Şişecam.

She is also currently seven months pregnant and still working, although her responsibilities have been adapted to comply with work safety rules.

Ms Gökçe was one of the first two woman to join the Flat Glass department at Şişecam’s Polatli facility in Ankara, Turkey. She has been working as a Flat Glass Shaping Operator at the plant for three years.

Her other responsibilities include glass pulling, spout case changing, and tweel changing, as well as conducting hazard analyses.

“Glass pulling involves advancing hooks filled with iron on a line, with lengths exceeding 2.5 metres. When the time comes, we pull these hooks and push the floats towards the exit.”

“I shape the 900-ton glass with my fingers - it’s difficult to describe this incredible feeling.”

Merve Gökçe, Flat Glass Forming Operator at Şişecam.

Merve Karacakol (see left) started her career 10 years ago at Şişecam as a Quality Control Engineer, and currently continues her path as a Production Supervisor at Şişecam’s Polatli Plant.

She graduated from Hacettepe University’s Department of Chemical Engineering in 2012. Throughout her education, she was interested in topics such as material properties, production processes, and industrial applications, which led her to take a career in glass.

On her role, she said: “What has consistently brought me happiness is the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of the production process. Often, we find ourselves doing tasks that are outside the realm of routine.

“For instance, there are times when we enter furnaces at temperatures of 55-60°C wearing firefighter gear. Moulding fire is a mesmerising journey.”

“Roles need definitions, not genders. There are no gender specific professions. I started with this mindset at Şişecam, and it has never changed. I work just like a male supervisor.”

Merve Karacakol, Production Supervisor at Şişecam.

Ardagh Glass Packaging

Megan Hoyle (see below), Environmental and Energy Manager at Ardagh Glass Packaging (AGP) – Knottingley, began her career in the food industry before later switching to glass. Studying glass as part of her coursework at the University of Sheffield sparked her interest in the industry.

She became fascinated with the glass production process while on a tour at AGP’s Knottingley plant in England, UK, during an interview for the position of Environmental Manger at the facility.

Ms Hoyle has now been working at the plant for just over two years, beginning her role in November 2021.

As an Environmental and Energy Manager, her primary responsibility is ensuring the site remains compliant with its operational permit, and overseeing the environmental and energy management systems.

Ms Hoyle also plans to continue the social outreach initiatives she started last year, such as visiting a local school on International Women’s Day to talk to Year 10 and 11 girls about careers in manufacturing.

She believes this will help encourage more women to join the glass industry.

“We need to be doing more to engage with schools and young girls to show them that if working in glass, or other stereotypically ‘male’ roles or industries, is something they’re interested in, then they absolutely can do it.”

Megan Hoyle, Environmental and Energy Manager at Ardagh Glass Packaging.

PaneraTech

Juliana Damasceno (see left) currently works as a Field Engineer at glass technology supplier PaneraTech. In this role, she conducts inspections and audits, and installs the supplier’s ‘Polaris’ monitoring system in both container and float glass furnaces.

However, Ms Damasceno began her glass career in manufacturing, at Guardian Glass. While studying glass materials for a university course, she discovered an internship opportunity at the manufacturer.

Following the internship, she transitioned into the role of a Process Analyst in the Cold End and Glass Quality area, before later returning to work in the hot end.

On why she decided to relocate to PaneraTech, she said: “It was a challenging decision for me because I genuinely love the glass manufacturing process and found fulfilment in it. However, I was seeking more challenges and an opportunity to explore various plants and furnace types.”

“When I started my internship, I was the only woman in the process team and throughout the production process. Over time, I noticed a positive change, with more women in all areas. This progress suggests we’re heading in the right direction, even if we haven’t achieved complete gender balance yet.”

Juliana Damasceno, Field Engineer at PaneraTech.

Stoelzle Glass Group

Joanne McConnachie (see below), Cold End and Quality Manager at Stoelzle Flaconnage, said she “accidentally” discovered the glass industry whilst on holiday during her A-Levels.

“I went to work at a resorting facility with my friend for the summer. Once there, I was asked to go to Allied Glass to work in their on-site resort facility. It was meant to be a short-term job to make some money - that was 32 years ago.”

At the facility, Ms McConnachie was offered a permanent position, where she worked from 1992 onwards. In 2006, she joined the Stoelzle team, working for the Stoelzle Flaconnage plant in Knottingley, UK.

Ms McConnachie said she enjoyed the freedom and versatility of her role: “One day I could be working with the cold end team, the next day I could be with a customer, the day after, working with decoration. The role touches so many aspects, it’s great to be involved.”

“Women, believe it or not, are far better at handling the bottles. They seem to have an easier dexterity when holding and inspecting them.”

Joanne McConnachie, Cold End and Quality Manager at Stoelzle.

Saverglass

Isabelle Rade (see left), Facilitating Co-ordinator at Saverglass, was born and raised by a family of glassmakers in the ‘Glass Valley’ region of Normandy, France.

“My grandfather and his sons (my father and my three uncles) used to work on the production side, on the lines and in the moulding shop. They were passionate about glass, and often talked about their jobs. These stories were an integral part of my childhood.”

Ms Rade was the first woman in her family to become a glassmaker, although she happened upon a job opportunity in the industry by chance. She worked for Saint-Gobain for 12 years before she joined Saverglass in 1999.

She is now the Facilitating Co-ordinator of Saverglass’s decoration unit. Once the plain glass bottles are produced, she and her team of six women handle all decoration scheduling to ensure a smooth decoration process.

“Despite Saverglass’s will to open positions to both men and women, it took an iron hand in a velvet glove! As women, we had to prove to men that we could succeed where they excelled.”

Isabelle Rade, Facilitating Co-ordinator at Saverglass.