Breaking the Glass Ceiling

Women managers and supervisors at Ford were rare but the opportunities were available to those who wanted them.

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I went home one day and my mum and dad were reading the paper, and it was an advert from Fords It said “Would you like to join our Production Management Team?” I said ‘ooh yeah but will there be any girls doing …?’ He said ‘go for it, I’d go, you’ve got nothing to lose, they can only say no.’ So I applied for it and – I was the only manufacturing technician that was female and there wasn’t any after that either.

I was interviewed, at Southampton and because I was female I had to go for a second interview at Dagenham, because I had to agree as Dagenham as my home-base because in those days because of the Factories Act, I was not allowed to do shift work so, if I’d been male I’d have gone back to Southampton Plant and worked on the production areas but as I wasn’t I had to go into a predominantly female area which was with the Dagenham sewing machinists.

…Because I had to agree Dagenham as my home-base I didn’t get expenses like all the others did. so I didn’t get any expenses at all, so - different times. You’d look back now – it wouldn’t happen but – because I really wanted to do the job I just had to take it on the chin and get on with it.

That then changed and that’s when shifts were allowed to be worked by females and then the ladies could go and start working on the production lines because that barrier was not there anymore.

Debbie B

There were some in mechanical, there were some in electrical, there were also what they called the technical apprenticeships, which people took to become engineers. I think, in my group, the electrical group, there were at least 6 in the class. There were about 90 of us in total.

I’ve got a lot of respect for them because, obviously, coming into a very male dominant industry, to do that and to make that decision they have, they deserve a lot of respect. And they’re all of them, they have been totally, totally capable.

Stephen H-P

’92 was when I started the apprenticeship. ’96, I was on the lines ’til … sort of 2000 was when I came off. I went into gun edge repair which was in ‘A’ building.

Then I think I was there about a year and then the Plant Manager at the time suggested to myself and the other lady that I did my apprenticeship with that there was no female supervision in this plant and that they were looking to take on supervisors and would we be interested in looking at it.

So what he arranged for us was a trip up to the Jaguar plant to meet a female supervisor up there, spend the day with her, see what she did and have a chat with her – how she got on and how she felt. Which we did. She was just very positive.

We was in awe of her, just walking around, and telling the guys what to do and stuff, and she had it all organised and she was saying at first it was a bit unusual for them to get used to, but they’ve all got used to it now. She was saying how much she enjoyed it and that she was really glad that she done it. I was just, for me, I just thought for me it was the right thing, really.

And then we came back and I decided I wanted to put in for supervisor and the other lady decided she didn’t. So then I went through the application process and the interview and the assessment centre day to become a supervisor and I got the job. I then went into Material Handling, or Material Planning and Logistics. I was in there for quite a while and then I went from there into the paint shop and I was production supervisor on the Sealer Deck.

Then I went up into the Paint shop, then I came into Body Construction as a supervisor. … In MP&L I was very relieved when a lady called Debbie Bacon came down and she was a Superintendent from Dagenham, so that was nice and she’s a lovely lady and she helped me ever such a lot actually.

So there’s been other higher people, then in the Paint Shop there was a manager, a female manager. But just at that time in Southampton plant there hadn’t been a female supervisor.

Claire S