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8 March 2021
At British Sugar, we are always proud to celebrate all the women across our business who play such an integral role in keeping operations running, but especially so on International Women’s Day. One colleague who, over the course of her 37-year career with us, has seen significant progression in the role of women in what has traditionally been a male-dominated industry is our Company Food Safety & Quality Manager, Lindsay Mather.
Lindsay joined the business back in 1983 in a temporary beet testing role at our then Central Laboratory in Peterborough. From there, she was offered a place on the Chemical Control apprenticeship scheme, and subsequently relocated with the laboratory to work at the Norwich Technical Centre. After spending four years there as a sugar products chemist, she wanted to use her technical knowledge to help customers, so moved back to Peterborough to work within the commercial team, where she continued to develop her broad knowledge of our sugar products, their application within our customers’ processes and the growth of special sugars via technical sales.
“We’ve come so far since I started my career, and I always feel inspired to see so many more women when I’m at one of our four factories now compared to how it used to be”, says Lindsay. “I remember a time 35 years ago when I couldn’t even find the ladies loo in a factory visit because there were so few women there! Needless to say, that has changed completely now.”
“There are still challenges for women, but we’ve come a long way. I’ve seen so much positive change in behaviours and perceptions in the workplace, like more understanding and acceptance of mental health challenges and more support being available – which can only be a good thing. Today there is also much more recognition that we’ve all got something to contribute – whoever we are and whatever our background.”
To Lindsay, having diversity in the workplace is important to help a business move forward and improve. “You need all types of diversity and a mix of people, as otherwise idea generation becomes stale, and you’re not reflecting today’s society. We all think in different ways and this brings real benefits for a workplace.”
Reflecting on this year’s International Women’s Day theme of Choose to Challenge, Lindsay says “As women, we owe it to ourselves to challenge a situation where we feel our values have been compromised, or to call out assumptions or bias. Challenging things in the right way can really improve a relationship and help develop mutual respect, but we must be prepared to take on feedback as well.”
She explains that “In any male-dominated workplace, there is no reason for women to have to behave differently just because we’re working with men. We should be true to ourselves. Of course, you can develop yourself, but behave in a way you would expect others to behave towards you.”
In her current role as British Sugar’s Company Food Safety & Quality Manager, based within our Supply Chain team but working across a broad number of business areas, Lindsay is responsible for ensuring our products meet the high standards required by the BRC and ISO schemes, and of course those of our customers. “It’s great that there are lots of women working in food safety – across the whole food manufacturing sector – but I’ve always been keen to do what I can to inspire more women to take up a career in STEM.”
Lindsay spent five years managing British Sugar’s business graduate scheme, over which time she mentored and developed at least 20 graduates through the company, many of whom are still working for the business or within our parent company ABF. “It’s so important to have time and patience for people to help them develop. I’ve had people who have taken the time to teach me over my career and for me, one of the most important things you can give back to a company is to share your experience. Knowledge is power, but only if you give it to other people.” She also notes, “There is nothing more rewarding than getting a thank you card from somebody you have mentored, saying how much your support has meant to them.”
If there was any advice she could give to women starting out in the food and drink manufacturing sector, she says it would be to establish a really good network – of both women and men – who can support you at work, and to have confidence in yourself. “As women, we can sometimes be more self-critical, but by supporting each other we can all reach our full potential.”
After over 37 years with us, Lindsay is retiring from British Sugar in May and we wish her the very best for a well-deserved and happy retirement.