Ahead of International Women’s Day, Jess Mills spoke to women who work throughout the glass industry for their perspectives 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.**
Susan Lyall (see right) is the Operations Leader for the UK Country Group at O-I. She grew up in Clackmannanshire, Scotland, near O-I’s Alloa glass plant where she currently works.
“Growing up in Clackmannanshire, O-I - or ‘the glassworks’ as we called it - was always a large part of our community. The plant has been here for over 270 years and is one of the largest employers in our area.
"Because of this, it is very common that you will see multiple generations of local families become glassmakers.”
The same was true for Ms Lyall, whose father was a Machine Operator. Growing up, she would always hear stories about manufacturing.
To encourage more women to industry, Ms Lyall believes that education, transparency, and opportunity needs to be provided.
She said: “If you reflect on your experiences in early or higher education, the reality is you only know what you are taught and what you are exposed to."
“Sharing our heritage and opportunities with our communities, local schools and higher education institutes can change the perception of our industry and empowers women to make informed choices about their future.”Susan Lyall, UK Operations Leader at O-I.
Agnieszka Jankowiak (see below) has been working at Ardagh Group for 14 years.
She currently works as a Batch and Furnace Best Practice Manager in the Operational Excellence Group (OEG). In terms of numbers, she said she had not encountered many women during her career.
She believes that there is an “unconscious archetype” of men working at the hot end, as these roles have historically been filled by them.
On why women should consider a role in the glass industry, she said: “For women who decide to gain education and experience in earth and material science or engineering, it is a good place to get a practical experience, to develop and to be part of a great team.”
She continued: “We are in a transition period, and I see more women working in this area, so the unusual is beginning to change to a new normal.
“It will take time before we see as many women as men in this industry, but a new mindset is already here, and it is a positive change.”
To encourage more women to the industry, she believes there should be equal development opportunities for all genders, regardless of role.
“We are in a transition period, and I see more women working in this area, so the unusual is beginning to change to a new normal."Agnieszka Jankowiak, Batch and Furnace Manager at Ardagh.
Beckie Smith (see right), Facilities Supervisor at Encirc, was interested in the manufacturing sector from a young age. Ms Smith now been a part of the glass industry for approximately four and a half years.
One of her biggest challenges has been adjusting to the industry. Coming from a customer service background, she said working within the manufacturing industry was an eye opener.
To encourage more women to the industry, Ms Smith thinks that a broader explanation of what roles are available is essential. She believes that the industry is inclusive for all, and wants to highlight that there are more roles within glass than working on production lines.
She said: “There are so many wonderful people within the industry, with great stories to tell of how glass has developed over the years to become what it has today, with much more to come. I am certainly looking forward to seeing where [the industry] goes.”
"Glass is such an exciting and ever-changing industry, with new technologies being introduced regularly. Women should consider a role in glass to experience it for themselves."Beckie Smith, Facilities Supervisor at Encirc.
Chiara Verzelloni (see left) has been the Production Manager for Bormioli Pharma’s glass plant in Bergantino, Northern Italy since May 2022. She said this was “both a huge challenge and something [she is] very proud of”.
The Bergantino facility is the largest plant in Europe dedicated to the production of moulded glass bottles for pharmaceutical use. With more than 330 people, three furnaces and 11 lines, the plant produces over 1.8 billion products annually.
When talking about women in the glass industry, Ms Verzelloni believes we need to distinguish between hot end and cold end production. She said: “Regarding the cold end, the role of women is well established, and the gender gap is really small.
“This is mainly driven by the work environment conditions, which are definitely lighter if compared with the hot end. In the hot end, the situation is different. In my case, for example, I am the only woman of the team, and I am also a Production Manager too.”
To encourage other women in taking her same career path, she would say “try it”. She believes that despite the hard working conditions – which are an objective element that can’t be ignored – often the main factor discouraging women in taking this career path is the fear of not being adequate.
“Stories like mine are proof that women can succeed in the glass industry. It’s just a matter of believing in it.”Chiara Verzelloni, Production Manager at Bormioli Pharma.
Neriman Ünlü (see right), Hot End IS Production Operator, believes that there’s nothing a woman cannot achieve. She became first operator in only three months at GCA’s glass container manufacturing facility in Kütahya, Türkiye
She said working with complex machinery first attracted her to the industry: “The glass production process was mesmerising, and I wanted to be a part of it.”
Ms Ünlü operates the IS machinery in the hot end of the production and ensures that the machinery works as intended.
“I love how I can succeed in a challenging job and disprove the popular belief that women are not fit for heavy industries.”Neriman Ünlü, Hot End IS Production Operator at GCA.
İmran Şahan (see left), Quality Control Operator at the Kütahya plant, ensures that the bottles and jars produced do not have any quality defects. On her role, she said: “It is quite uncommon for women to operate this kind of machinery in our industry, but with the help of my company, I am working towards smashing stereotypes.”
To encourage more women to the industry, she proposes that more companies should prioritise women during the application process, like GCA. Ms Ünlü also agrees that this will allow more women to be present in the industry.