International Women’s Day 8th March 2024

International Women's Day 8th March 2024


International Women’s Day 2024 campaign theme is all about: ‘Inspire Inclusion’.

When women are themselves inspired to be included, there’s a sense of belonging, relevance and empowerment.

It is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.

So today at AF Switchgear we wanted to focus on the women within our company. Being an Engineering company we are very much male dominated however, women currently make up around 10% of our total employees and this number is growing year on year.

The positions held by women at AF Switchgear range from Apprentice to Director which is something we are very proud of. Sharon Armiger, who is our Central Services Director, will achieve her 25-year work anniversary this year which is a huge achievement and one to be extremely proud of both for herself and the company.

Our Apprentice of the Year for 2023 was awarded to one of our female employees Fernie Cooling, more about Fernie in a later post.

So already you can see we have women in various roles within AF Switchgear, from Apprentices, Engineering, Electrical Fitters, Sales, Site Services, various Central Services Department roles which includes HR, Administration, Finance, Marketing and Logistics.

We must mention Diane Purseglove who retired recently but comes back to work at AF Switchgear 3 days a month. Diane will achieve her 25-year work anniversary this year too. Diane is participating in the London Half Marathon in April this year. We wish Diane all the best.

We also have Lynn in CSD who had a complete change of location and came to work at AF Switchgear, well done Lynn.

We do have 3 women at AF Switchgear with an International background, we hope you will find their stories both interesting and inspiring.


Claudia Varlan ~ Semi-Skilled Electrical Fitter


Claudia joined AF Switchgear in February 2023, her country of birth being Romania. Claudia joined the Electrical industry in Romania where she says it was also very male dominated, so the work experience was very similar to the UK. Claudia says she is treated very equally at AF Switchgear by her male colleagues.

Claudia says that one of her main challenges on joining AF Switchgear was to maintain a positive and respectful relationship with her colleagues due to the language barrier which could easily be misunderstood and mistranslated. She says her colleagues and team leaders are very understanding and they have built a good rapport, and that makes her feel like she is a valued part of the team.

Claudia says she believes AF Switchgear already does a good job with diversity. A few quotes from Claudia:

“I will highly encourage any women who are thinking about working internationally or abroad to pursue it. I suggest that you are open minded because a company such as AF Switchgear are inclusive and a good company to work for.”

“I find that my work colleagues are open and interested in my culture and background as I am about theirs. For example, at Christmas we exchanged traditional food, and they introduced me to new things.”

“I have never had problem at AF Switchgear being a female. I feel like the team leaders set a good example and treat me equal to the males, creating an inclusive culture and atmosphere from the top down.”


Monika Mizera ~ Master Production Scheduler


Monika joined AF Switchgear in April 2023, her country of birth being Poland.

Monika explains more about what happens in Poland on International Women’s Day:

In Poland, Women’s Day has been celebrated since 1911 and up to 1993 been National Bank Holiday.

Traditionally, on this day men give women flowers, mainly tulips, carnations, and roses, as well as small gifts such as chocolates or cosmetics. In schools, universities, and workplaces, meetings and events are organised to recognise the achievements and contributions of women. In recent years, marches, demonstrations, and cultural events have become increasingly popular, aimed at highlighting the importance of gender equality and the fight for women’s rights.

Monika says she was ‘bought up in an environment where gender has nothing to do what we can achieve ~ we are all equal. “

Challenges that Monika says she has sometimes faced within her working life are mainly the language barrier, but this is usually easily resolved.  Monika says her colleagues and Directors at AF Switchgear treat her good and are very supportive towards her. Monika enjoys coming to work and says she ‘is treated fairly.”

When we asked Monika about advice, she would give to other women considering working internationally her reply was:

“Don’t give up on your dreams, work hard = play hard.”


Fernie Cooling ~ 3rd Year Apprentice & Apprentice of the Year 2023.


Fernie was born in Columbia, she is the middle child of 9 siblings and is bilingual speaking both Spanish and English.

Fernie joined AF Switchgear on our apprentice programme in October 2021 and is currently on secondment working alongside our Engineers as a Trainee Applications Engineer.

Fernie recently won our Apprentice of the Year Award for 2023 which is an amazing achievement both for Fernie herself and for AF Switchgear too. We are extremely proud of Fernie and her dedication to the company.

On chatting with Fernie about her cultural background and women in her industry she was eager to explain the differences that she has noticed.

Fergie said that ‘In my country, Colombia, it is still quite rare to find women working in heavily male dominated industries, with areas such as construction seeing women making up only 14% of the work force between 2022-2023. I believe that this mindset is very limiting overall as having women working within these sorts of industries can enhance the workforce. My cultural background hasn’t influenced me enough to limit myself in what I’ve chosen to do as a career, so now I’m working my way to become an engineer.”

I asked Fernie a few more questions:

In what ways can AF Switchgear promote diversity and inclusion, especially for women, across our company?

Fernie replied “Perhaps by having an awareness month for our non-British employees. Not all of them would choose to be in the UK, so celebrating their efforts of starting a new life away from their country, facing challenges like learning the language, getting the education to be able to work etc. As a general, they make huge sacrifices.”

What advice would you give to other women considering or currently working internationally?

“While it can be daunting taking this step out of your comfort zone, the rewards for doing so far outweigh the negatives. Picking up skills you wouldn’t have the opportunity to do in your own country will benefit you for years to come after, especially if it involves learning another language.”

What progress have you observed in terms of gender equality during your time working at AF?

“I’ve seen at least 5 women work under manufacturing as opposed to working in an office environment. This is still quite new for AF, and I hope to see more promotion for women to join. There have been two women employees win apprentice of the year in the past 3 years, showing recognition across all departments.”