Global leading metal recycler, EMR has a heritage dating back to the 1950s. At the origin of the business is the story of one woman’s dream of a better life for her family. In the 1940s, Winifred Sheppard left wartime London for the relative safety of Rochdale after a bomb destroyed the factory where she worked and her job was relocated to Greater Manchester. With her husband and children, Winifred started the business that is known today as EMR, in central Rochdale.

EMR’s story began with one women’s determination. This International Women’s Day, Samantha Grierson Schwarz, EMR’S Director of Change and Chair of EMR’s Inclusion Steering Group, explains what EMR is doing to encourage more women into the metal recycling industry.

When you think of metal recycling, you may have in mind an industry that is male-dominated. You are not wrong.

Throughout my career, working in construction and now the metal recycling industry, I have found myself surrounded by male colleagues, largely due to the low numbers of women in these industries. I can honestly say that I have never found my gender as a factor detrimental to my success. However, this is not a sentiment shared by women globally.

The question arises, what are the obstacles preventing women from pursuing a career in these industries? An article published by International Women’s Day illustrated how inflexible working environments prove a big barrier for women who look to balance their careers with family life.[1] Part-time working, job shares, remote working and maternity/paternity benefits are increasingly offered and frequently reviewed with the aim of increasing female participation in the workplace. After all, ‘women belong in all places where decisions are being made’.[2]

So how can we encourage more women into employment, especially in to industries traditionally viewed as being a male territory?

From a young age we are conditioned to believe that there are certain roles for men and certain roles for women. This is simply not true and we must break down these stereotypes. We must celebrate the individuals in roles that are not traditionally perceived as open to them, sharing the positive experiences which they have had within these positions. With this we show their peers that their aspirations are attainable.

It is also important for businesses to review the way that positions are advertised and recruited. Unconsciously there is a tendency to use language which can be uninviting for women. Many businesses, like EMR, now use their recruitment process to highlight their commitment to equality in the workplace and at EMR we aim to ensure that recruitment decisions are made solely on experience and talent.

However, creating an inclusive environment where everyone wants to continue working is about more than just policies and hiring practices, it’s an ongoing environment where everyone brings their whole self to work each day and feels valued, heard and able to make an impact while progressing their careers.

At EMR, we are working hard to create an environment where women can achieve their potential. Our culture is described by ‘The EMR Way’ – ‘We Care’ and ‘We Do’. It’s built on our values of ‘caring’ about what we do and getting the job ‘done’ for our customers and suppliers. These principles and values guide all of our actions and decisions. We ask that all of our employees uphold our values, try to inspire them in others and hold us to account if we fall short of them, so we can learn and improve.

As a woman working for EMR, I am proud to see that the company is already on the journey to ensuring the workplace is as inclusive as possible. To continue to build a more equal and inclusive future, our Learning and Development Team are already working hard to educate and better equip people for jobs, addressing skill-gap shortages and developing clear career plans to develop people and to keep them.

Our newly formed Inclusion Steering Group can only further the discussion and the development of a more inclusive environment where everyone can prosper.

It was one woman’s determination that created the EMR we know today. EMR’s heritage and family values certainly shape the business, and I am proud to say I work for a company that aims to treat everyone equally and that puts their people first.




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