A trio of female trailblazers that are revolutionising catering equipment service have called on more to be done at school level to inspire other women to follow in their footsteps.
Lynn Donnachie, Rachel Murray and Erin Pinkerton are all employed by Hobart Service and represent a tiny minority of women that work as catering equipment service engineers in the UK and Ireland.
With International Women’s Day taking place yesterday, they all feel strongly that changing the status quo depends on young females being made aware of the opportunities available.
“We need to engage young women at school level, make them realise that this is a career, not just a fallback. It’s about problem solving and offers ultimate job satisfaction,” insists Murray.
Based in the Irish Republic, Murray possesses a vast skillset that could rival any of her male counterparts, yet on the job she has always had to battle against preconceptions.
“It happens an awful lot, there are many sites which I go into and you can just tell they are thrown off because they were expecting a guy. But you get used to dealing with people like that and it doesn’t take long for some of them to see the quality of your work, the rapport you build; but then other times you just grit your teeth and have to deal with it,” she says.
Lynn Donnachie agrees it would help if there was a firmer academic push: “We need to make more of apprenticeship schemes focusing firmly on the positives, of which there are so many. Only then will we begin to get fairer representation.”
Describing herself as “no wallflower” she credits a thick skin developed during her years in the Navy as the best defence to any prejudgment. Moreover, when she does visit a new kitchen, she says her presence is often treated as a novelty.
“You walk in and they say ‘oh, it’s a lassie – that’s fantastic!’ Even if there were any preconceptions when you walk in, it’s when you walk out after getting them back up and running, that they realise. It’s then all about the quality of your work.”
With 14 years in the Navy – as the only female engineer on a ship of men – Erin Pinkerton is more than used to being outnumbered.
As is common with many who swap the forces for civilian life, she initially found it jarring to go from the sanctuary of a large team to being out on her own.
Soon after, she joined Hobart Service and was immediately buoyed by both the problem-solving elements of the job and the satisfaction of getting kitchen operations across south west England back up and running.
She, too, advocates a major education drive to encourage more females to take a catering equipment service career path.
“It’s about going into schools, into colleges, and demonstrating to these people the benefits of a career in engineering. We are prime examples – but to shift perceptions for good we desperately need more.”