In observance of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science (IDGWS), dedicated to recognising and empowering women's contributions to science, we caught up with Dr. Mandy Clement, TFP's accomplished Technology Manager.
With over 16 years at TFP, Mandy leads our expert team of research and material scientists, delivering innovative nonwoven solutions for a range of applications for markets from aerospace and defence to future energy solutions, including carbon capture and battery technologies.
As a business we are extremely proud of the fact that more than 40% of our science-based roles across TFP, TFP Hydrogen Products Ltd, and EFT divisions are held by outstanding women like Dr. Clement.
What qualifications did you pursue, and what has driven you to pursue these courses?
A few highlights of my formal qualifications include a First-Class BSc (Hons) in Chemistry from the University of St. Andrews, a PhD in organic chemistry from Durham University, a CMI Level 5 Diploma in Management, and I’m a certified Lean Sigma Green Belt. I’m also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry.
I firmly believe in the importance of continuous professional development and ‘life-long learning’ and have completed various short to medium courses across a wide range of topics since the start of my career 20+ years ago. This helps me keep my knowledge and understanding up-to-date and continually evolving.
Was there anyone that inspired you to go down your chosen career path?
In high school (aged 12-18), I was strongly drawn to chemistry (and maths and physics), and I think it was the science that initially inspired me, not any one individual.
After working for about three years, the Managing Director of the company I worked for at the time mentored me for about 12 months. This made a huge difference to my outlook. Over the year, we covered all types of topics (many around soft skills, behaviours, and leading others), and I still draw on some of the learnings from that time now (and try to pass them on!).
What were your goals and ambitions when setting out in your early career?
I’ve had a few different roles throughout my career so far, but my goals have always been the same. They are to have a role that:
- I enjoy immensely (with the right level of challenge)
- involves scientific concepts and innovation
- focuses on developing products for commercial application (i.e., is not an academic ‘knowledge-building’ role)
- is with an organization that has values similar to my values.
What are the positions you’ve held previously? How have they enabled you to get you to your role today?
After finishing my PhD, I went straight to work in industry as a research chemist. This was ‘hands-on’ work designing and executing chemical synthesis and working with a team of scientists (usually all men). After about one year, I had the opportunity to take on responsibility for a small number of other scientists. This was a big shock to the system at the time as previously I had only ‘managed myself’. From there, I progressed through more senior technical roles and then into Line Leadership.
Have you encountered any challenges being a woman in STEM and how have you worked to overcome them?
In my early career, I was exposed to obvious sexism from time to time. It was normal for me to be the only woman in a lab or meeting, etc. I remember attending a science conference in Brussels in 1999 and being one of only a few women there. Until that point, I hadn’t realised how underrepresented women were in this space, and it took a few years for me to come to terms with it. Today, 20+ years on, I believe the environment has improved substantially, but there is still no true equity. We need to consider topics like the gender pay gap and unconscious bias. Where possible, I aim to support, promote, and encourage women in STEM, and if I see inequality or bias (conscious or unconscious), then my goal is always to ‘call it out’ in an appropriate way. There is more to do, and it will take time, but I am optimistic.
How do you balance the need for achieving diversity and inclusion goals with the broader objectives of TFP?
I have 10 scientists and engineers reporting to me, and, together with my line leader, we are all working on innovation projects to add value to the business. This means that in the Technology Team, we have 5 women and 7 men, and I’m pleased with this gender balance. During the recruitment process, we take steps to ensure our decisions are fair and equitable, and following onboarding, we have transparent and clear progression paths (for those interested). I am also mindful of ‘cognitive diversity,’ and I aim to support a diverse team with a range of technical skills, knowledge, and behaviours.
What advice do you have for aspiring female scientists or professionals who aim to reach leadership positions within the scientific community?
Communicate your goals and gain support from key influencers. Work with your Line Leader to develop a personal development plan that is right for you. Think about your personal boardroom; this is an important network for you – who would you like to have in it, and how can that be achieved? Be confident in yourself and, most of all, find a role you will enjoy for all the right reasons.
To discover more about our technical team and their commitment to continuous innovations for custom nonwovens, please visit: https://www.tfpglobal.com/innovation/product-development