Discovering STEM Opportunities in Food and Drink

Written by Charlotte Kay – Interconnect Student Champion

The UK’s Food and Drink (F&D) industry is not all white coats, welly boots and hair nets as most of us seem to believe. Rather, it is host to many a glamourous and exciting job role. It is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK and is economically important for both the UK and Scotland. There is a global demand for our highly-regarded produce, such as salmon and whisky, thus many people are currently employed to get our food ‘from farm to fork’. However, the F&D industry will need to hire 19,000 more recruits by 2024 if it is to meet the skills needed of the sector, especially in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) roles. And, as an industry, they want to attract the best talent. Both male and female.

When mentioning food manufacturing and engineering to most people, there is this misconception that is a “man’s job”. Who’s to blame them? It is a “male-dominated” sector after all. But, what if this gender barrier was to be broken down allowing more women to become leaders in this profession? What if the huge array of exciting roles within the industry were clearly communicated to help overcome the gender stereotype that deter women from entering the sector? Equate Scotland brought together female speakers from a range of F&D professions and organisations to help do just that. This event, held at the beautiful Sir Charles Wilson Building, Glasgow University, helped to broaden our understanding of future job prospects for women in Scotland’s F&D sector as well as giving female STEM students the chance to network and ask each other (and the professionals) questions. Needless to say, the informal networking event was made easier over a complimentary glass of wine and some tasty canapes.

Guidance was given on how best to “sell yourself” to future employers with a CV writing presentation and Q&A by Lindsey Boxall from Eden Scott, Scotland’s leading independent recruitment business. The event’s guest speakers, however, need not have taken notes on this presentation. Listening to each of them intently as they shared with us their career stories and experiences, you could only envisage how impressive their CV’s must look! These talented ladies (mentioned below) work for companies such as Mathiesons, Diageo and Young’s (Seafood) and they confidently demonstrated a diverse range of careers options within the F&D sector with roles such as Process Capability Lead to New Product Development Food Technologist. Their collective advice for women (and I guess men too) looking to make their mark on Scotland’s largest manufacturing sector is to:

  • THINK BIG – think ahead to what you want to do and where you want to be in 10 years’ time
  • BECOME A STEM AMBASSADOR – the job market has changed dramatically over the years and teachers need to be aware of what opportunities there are out in the working world for the next generation
  • GET A LINKEDIN PROFILE – this is the “Facebook” of the professional world. It is a great way to advertise your hiring talent, collect endorsements and recommendations and cultivate a network that you can tap into later if you need to.
  • ATTEND SKILLS DEVELOPMENT WORKSHOPS – these are important in improving your employability by training in effective negotiation, communication and leadership skills, to name a few. Not forgetting to mention it is a special opportunity for networking, which leads smoothly on to the next piece of advice
  • ATTEND NETWORKING EVENTS – it goes without saying that networking has many, many benefits. Invest time in building and developing long-term relationships. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.
  • BE CREATIVE – don’t be scared to share your ideas with others, it may lead on to bigger things such as increased profits for the business, or being head hunted!
  • ALWAYS BE YOURSELF – let your true personality shine through. A good working attitude and enthusiasm will come naturally if you enjoy what you do.

The event left the female STEM students feeling empowered to discover more about what the F&D sector has to offer them, within their specialist roles. Not only did they take with them key advice on how to be a successful businesswoman, but a drive to help contribute towards breaking the “glass ceiling” effect which is seen only too often within this sector and many others. Equate Scotland and Interconnect are hosting more exciting events in the near future for women studying STEM subjects at Scotland’s Colleges and Universities, giving insights into career opportunities and workshops to help develop your skills. If you missed out on the F&D event talked about in this blog, make sure you sign up for one of their upcoming events – I can promise you that you will not be disappointed. If you need more information about this event or others, or you’d like to become involved, please get in touch.


Joanna Glenfield, Equate Scotland

Moira Stalker, Food & Drink Federation

Laura Alexander-Smith, Science Connects

Cheryl McCreadie, Equate Scotland

Sheila Kupsch, New Product Development – Food Technologist, Mathiesons

Gillian McBride, Engineering, Diageo

Louise Crozier, Food Scientist, Anacail

Bunmi Oladasu, Quality Assurance, Youngs (Seafood)

Jane White, Food Standards, Glasgow Scientific Services

Lindsey Boxall, Director, Eden Scott

Charlotte Kay

Charlotte Kay

Student Champion - University of Abertay

I am a third-year Food and Consumer Science student (accelerated) at the University of Abertay, Dundee. I love to cook, eat and socialise as well as research new and exciting innovations. It is fair to say I am passionate about all things food related. I became interested in gender equality within STEM subjects after seeing the Equate Scotland, Interconnect stand at Fresher’s fayre. I have been fortunate to have worked in strong, all female teams in the past and I would love to help combat the ‘glass ceiling’ in my future career. I hope to be able to spread word about the Interconnect network over the academic year and encourage others to get involved.