International Women’s Day

It’s no secret that women are underrepresented and underutilised in the global manufacturing sector. Despite efforts from national governments to encourage more women to study STEM subjects and opt for careers in this field, the statistics paint a bleak picture. Women make up under 25% of the manufacturing industry’s labour force, and men tend to occupy higher skilled and higher paid roles contributing to the gender pay gap.

At Janus Europe, we believe that a diverse workforce is an effective and valuable workforce. And that strong role models are key to driving change and achieving gender diversity in the industry. You can’t be what you can’t see.

We talked to some of our organisation’s female leaders to find out more about their careers and what advice they have to offer.

Rachel Steed, Chief Operations Officer

Proving that the road to a senior leadership role can take many forms, Rachel did not go down the route of higher education, but rather self-funded her professional accountancy qualification, studying evenings and weekends, alongside an early career in an unrelated field. Her determination to succeed independently led to first time passes in every exam, and an extra appreciation of the opportunities subsequently afforded.

Prior to joining Janus Europe in 2007, where she has held Finance Director and Group CFO roles, Rachel held a number of senior finance positions in the City, specialising in business process re-engineering and onboarding companies financially.

Rachel is a passionate advocate for finance being both a support and a challenge to any company, and always encourages her team to ensure they combine their technical know-how with presenting data in a way that is accessible and compelling.

After undertaking the Henley Business School Senior Leadership Programme, Rachel was ready for a more expansive leadership role, and in 2020, was promoted to Chief Operations Officer for the Janus Europe group, in order that she could bring her successful approach to two other key departments: Production & Logistics, and Operations, alongside Finance. Her collaborative way of working, combined with her process focus and pragmatism, has resulted in newly energised and connected teams.

“Excellence has no gender. Achieving what you need comes from needing to achieve, trust yourself and go for your goals. It will take hard work, but it will always be worth it.

Dr Deborah Finding, HR Director

After her undergraduate and Masters degrees from Cambridge University, Deborah’s passion for helping others led her into a career as a mental health support worker, and then team leader for a charity supporting women who had been trafficked into the UK. Combining her drive for social justice and her grassroots experience, she returned to academia, completing a PhD at the Gender Institute at the London School of Economics, where her research focused on building cultural communities of support for women who had experienced sexual violence. She has written extensively on gender and culture, including for the Guardian.

Prior to joining Janus Europe in early 2018 as group HR Director, Deborah held senior HR roles in advertising, market research and events organisations. As a HR professional, Deborah specialises in building company culture, creating and embedding values and improving communication. Combining insight and care for individuals with a desire to understand the big picture means she enjoys all aspects of HR: from recruiting and development through to organisational design and strategy.

“Don’t feel you have to become ‘one of the boys’ to succeed in a male-dominated industry. Be wholeheartedly yourself, and bring the skills and experience that are uniquely yours. The simplest route to success is written in rainbow colours on a poster in my office: work hard and be nice to people.”

Heather Harrison, Head Of Finance

After completing her engineering degree at Oxford University, Heather secured a place on a graduate scheme with Barclays Investment Bank. Her 10-year career with Barclays included roles in both the City of London and on New York’s Wall Street, specialising in providing finance to the mining and metals industry.

Following a career break, Heather retrained as a management accountant and held various positions in the education and pharmaceuticals sectors, prior to joining Janus Europe as Head of Finance in early 2020. Heather comments that despite working in male-dominated sectors all her life, she has never felt that being a woman has held her back. Her technical and engineering background has been a huge asset.
It’s worth mentioning that Heather’s own daughter also opted for a degree in engineering and states that it was her mother’s career choices that inspired her.

“Have the courage to try different things. Where you start off might not be where you eventually end up, because life is long and full of opportunity. But make sure you do something you enjoy. And don’t apologise!”

Gillian Bullen, Head Of Operations

Gillian has had a passion for problem-solving since childhood and loved studying maths and physics at school. At the age of 18 she joined Virgin Atlantic as an aircraft maintenance apprentice as the only female and within 6 months she was repairing aeroplanes.

The apprenticeship turned into a long and very successful career in aviation. Gillian spent nearly two decades with Virgin in various technical, engineering, and managerial roles. In September 2020 she was hired by Janus Europe to head up the Operations department.

Gillian is a strong supporter of apprenticeship programmes as she believes they offer numerous benefits to both apprentices and employers. Young people gain valuable hands-on training and work experience whereas companies are able to tap into talent pools they might otherwise miss out on.

“Focus on the skills and subjects you are passionate about, and there’s no limit as to how far you can go. Find the right way for you to build transferrable skills and you can thrive in any industry.”

View our latest career opportunities or to find out more about the Janus International range of self storage and access control solutions, please get in touch on: or +44 (0) 20 8744 9444.

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