Women in the world of lubricants

Attracting the next generation of outstanding leaders

The European lubricants industry faces a shortage of higher education leavers holding awards in science, chemistry and engineering to replace an ageing workforce occupying senior management roles. With too few young, qualified new entrants joining the sector, could attracting more female professionals into our industry help to address this skills gap issue?

Over the past few months I have made it a mission to meet as many lubricant companies as possible, visiting manufacturing sites, inspecting laboratory facilities, attending industry conferences, taking part in the UKLA’s Certificate of Lubricant Competence training programme, travelling to overseas summits and working group meetings, and more recently, attending the UEIL Congress (read more in our report on page 53). This will continue.

But the human landscape I’ve encountered on my travels so far has been mostly male. Is this a fair representation of the diverse and experienced pool of talent in our industry?

This disproportionate male to female ratio is a concern that is raised in the wider context of an acknowledged industry skills shortage and is highlighted by the drive to recruit younger talent to replace the ageing status quo. In this issue’s Industry Insight, Jan Ward, CEO of Corrotherm and Chair of the Board of Millers Oils, highlights the need for female “aspirational leaders... and positive role models” to inspire the next generation of women in engineering.

With recruitment and gender representation high on the topical agenda, I spoke to four female professionals from the industry who are doing just that:


Caroline Slinn is Customer Technical Service Specialist for Italmatch Chemicals and has been a chemist in the metalworking fluid industry for 15 years.

I fell into the industry by accident after graduating from York University with a Masters in Chemistry. It was a big reality check for me - I had to learn my trade from the bottom up, working through various technician and development chemist roles to learn the ins and outs of formulations and problem solving. I am still learning every day.

In 2008 I was honoured (and surprised!) to receive the prestigious UKLA ‘Young Employee of the Year’ Award. This award gave me a significant confidence boost. It inspired me to keep going, to be more determined and to get my voice heard in a very male dominated world; I must have been doing something right!

I have a diverse and exciting role supporting customers. My main geographical region is Western Europe and a large proportion of my time is taken up on customer visits to Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France, etc. Back at our base in Trafford Park Manchester, my time is divided between laboratory work and the office. It’s great to keep close to the laboratory and work with the R&D team on commercialising the latest products and getting my hands on the latest technology our team is working on.

I spend a great deal of time supporting customers to help them solve problems, improve their formulations or demonstrating the performance of our technology in their particular application. Hosting customer workshops and lab sessions is another key function I enjoy. Serving such a wide customer base ensures that each customer and application is unique; life is never dull, no two days ever the same.

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