Unipart MD urges women to enter business award

One of the most senior female executives in UK engineering is urging her counterparts to put themselves forward for a major award – for the good of the industry.

Carol Burke, the managing director of Midlands-based Unipart Manufacturing Group , won the Businesswoman of the Year title in 2005 – and believes the title could help promote manufacturing and engineering to a new generation of women.

Entries are now open for the 32nd Businesswoman of the Year with the winner to be announced at the Women of the Year Luncheon and Awards at the Birmingham Hilton Metropole Hotel near the NEC on Friday, October 10.

The Unipart Manufacturing Group is part of the Unipart Group – the multinational logistics, supply chain, manufacturing and consultancy company– with an annual turnover of more than £1billion,and Burke admits she had to be “encouraged” to enter the awards.

“I have to say that naturally it is the sort of thing I steer away from and entering was against my instincts,” she said. “I prefer to just do my job which I think is true of a lot of women in manufacturing.

“Manufacturing is quite a tough macho sector and I am sure there was some banter at the time, but I felt it was important to enter really for the industry and to underline the importance in attracting more women.

“That is truer now than ever before, and I would recommend any of my contemporaries who might share my reservations, to give it a go.

“It is a great event in itself, but more important is the message it sends out to girls and young women who might consider engineering and manufacturing as a profession.”

Burke is backing measures by various industry bodies – including the Royal Academy of Engineers – to encourage more females into the industry but believes that the lack of skilled people entering the sector is a major problem.

She said: “The lack of skilled people entering the industry is our biggest threat and we all have to do something about it by reaching people through a variety of routes – not purely the traditional channels.

“So if entering awards such as this makes a difference, I think women in industry should consider it even if, like me, they have natural reservations.”

Lord Digby Jones chairs the entry panel for the 2014 Businesswoman of the Year. The presenter of BBC 2 TV’s Troubleshooter business programme was Director General of the CBI between 2000-06 and Minister of State for Trade and Investment from 2007-08. He is also the chairman, director and advisor of several UK global businesses including Unipart’s consultancy group, Unipart Expert Practices.

Former winners include Karren Brady CBE, star of The Apprentice and Vice-Chairman at West Ham United, Hilary Devey CBEfrom BBC TV series Dragons’ Den, Sarah Tremellen, founder and Chief Executive of Bravissimo, Emma Elston,co-founder of UK Container Maintenance, Julie White, Managing Director of D-Drill, and Asha Khemka OBE,Principal and Chief Executive of West Nottinghamshire College.