AUTUMN / WINTER 18 10 A conversation with Dr Elaine Lancaster EMBRACING THE LOGIC Interview Dr Elaine Lancaster, Chief Technical Officer for Groupe Atlantic UK & ROI with a PhD in metallurgy, is an excellent example of what women in the sector can achieve. She was recently appointed as the first female president of the Energy Utilities Alliance (EUA). The EUA is a not-for-profit trade organisation comprised of the Heating and Hot Water Council (HHIC), the Hot Water Association, the Industrial and Commercial Energy Association (ICOM), the Manufacturer’s Association of Radiators & Convectors, Utility Networks and the Natural Gas Vehicle Network. It is one of the leading industry voices which helps to shape future policy in the sector. Our Marketing Communications Executive Julia Maul had the opportunity to talk to Elaine to find out more about her motivations and plans as president of the EUA for the next 12 months. Elaine, were you interested in engineering from an early age? There are some subjects in school that you’re better at, and my favourite was mathematics. Especially in secondary grade I found science and maths very intuitive. What got you interested in pursuing a career in science? During my A levels, Women in Science & Engineering (WISE) offered a course at Imperial College, London, to encourage women to get interested in science and engineering. As part of the course I attended tutorials including those on maths and materials. I was fascinated by the properties of materials and how they have an influence on the applications they’re used for, such as at the time lightweight aerospace alloys. An experiment that particularly stuck with me were rubber balls which turned brittle when submerged in liquid nitrogen Was this the reason you decided to study metallurgy and materials? I was interested in applied engineering, and the WISE-course gave me an insight into the sector. I wanted to be able to see the “consequences” of a material. When did you join Groupe Atlantic, and why? I was working for Baxi as a technology director when someone approached me. I felt ready for a new challenge: With an opportunity to be responsible for the full R&D team with more influence on strategy, I joined Ideal Boilers in 2011. In 2015 Ideal Boilers was acquired by Groupe Atlantic. Being part of a larger group, I now work with a diverse number of brands including Hamworthy Heating, Ideal Boilers, Ideal Commercial, Keston and Gledhill. Science and Engineering plays a crucial part in the manufacture of boilers, especially when it comes to the heat exchanger. That’s where my knowledge of applied engineering comes into play which I greatly enjoy. What does your role involve? I’m leading the R&D teams in Hull and Blackpool which means I’m in charge of research and development for all new products and maintenance of existing products. Working with the team, we come up with new concepts, ideas and technologies and make sure objectives are delivered on time, in the expected quality and, of course, within budget. But the role also involves looking at training, skills and people. We ensure sustainability by working with universities and encouraging work placements. Why do you think there aren’t many women working in our industry? The main problem is the stereotype of manufacturing and engineering being a men’s job. It’s still seen as involving heavy lifting and being ‘dirty’. There’s a lack of awareness about what the roles really involve. I would always encourage work experience or having a chat with family and relatives working in the sector to find out what it’s really like. The key is having a passion about science and technology. An observation I’ve made while chatting with females in the industry was that women can be quite self-conscious about their own skills. Unless they feel they can do 100 per cent of the job, they won’t apply for it. Men tend to be more optimistic and self- confident. When they can do about 50 per cent of what the role is asking for, they would still go ahead. Celebrating the achievements of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), the National Women in Engineering Day launched in 2014. It aims not only at supporting and rewarding women in sciences but also to encourage women to pursue careers in STEM, and to promote gender diversity and equality.