International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day

As we celebrate International Women’s Day this year, I took the opportunity to speak with some of the exceptional women who play a vital role in keeping the Cheaney factory running smoothly.

Mel, our supervisor for assembly, lasting, making, and finishing, provided some valuable insights into what it’s like to work in the footwear industry at Cheaneys. Her encouraging words highlight the importance of women actively seeking positions and roles, as they can bring valuable perspectives to our company. We hope Mel’s message inspires more women to pursue their passion for footwear and feel confident in pursuing leadership positions in our industry. In her own words:

“I have held this position since February 2019. My main role is to aid the manufacture of Cheaney and customer footwear from assembly stage through to final finishing before the Shoeroom. I Manage 25-30 Staff and am accountable for all training, health and safety procedures, recruitment, and disciplinary procedures.

I really do love the industry I work in and the team I have built at Cheaneys. My role here is really one of the most important things to me. I am a big team player and my employees are really a huge family. I have had a lot of challenging things I have had to implement and change, but I believe the quality footwear that we produce now has never looked so good. I have a solid, strong, trustworthy team who are Cheaney minded through and through! I have grown immensely since joining and faced challenges that I did not expect.

I have never thought about being supported in any different way to male staff and employees. Alex my manager and William treat me exactly the same way they do any gender. Gender equality and labour practices are also a given here. If you can do a job, whatever or whoever you are, that’s all that matters. In actual fact, for a woman to run the main production floor in any shoe factory is very unusual so that really proves a point at Cheaneys.

I am a black woman working in this Industry. I can only speak about Cheaney shoes but I have never been held back, told I can’t do something or starved of information, guidance and encouragement by my employers. The proudest moments for me as detailed previously are being trusted to take over several departments and having my staff’s trust to believe what I say we can do. I mention my team a lot, and that is the catalyst that makes me continue what I am doing. They mean a lot to me, and we all have respect for each other’s ideas, views, and work.

The changes I would like to see in the future of footwear manufacturing for women is more women getting involved. I have never been held back in any way, so I feel the change has to come from the individual to put themselves forward.

“The biggest misconception is that it’s a man’s world, and walking around Cheaney Shoes, you can see this is untrue.”

Also, I think some people hear ‘factory’ and think it’s a mundane production line.

To address this, people need to give it a try. Visit a shoe factory and look at the workmanship that produces the quality footwear we manufacture. The wages that these skilled individuals command should also be proof of the calibre of individuals who are successful enough to work in them. I see Northamptonshire’s shoe factory industry growing and growing. The key thing to aid this is recruitment to transfer skills. Women will play the role which they wish to. It’s all to do with the application of the individual. If they do not come forward for positions that are freely available to them, how can any of us ever progress? People need be pro-active themselves to promote gender diversity and equal opportunities in the shoe factory and wider industry.”

Mel – Assembly, Lasting, Making, & Finishing Supervisor

During these interviews, I noticed a common theme of placing importance on acquiring diverse skills throughout the factory & encouraging more training in the industry. Deanna, our supervisor for the Closing room, has some words of wisdom for young women contemplating a career in this industry – “stick at it, it can be rewarding if you learn different skills throughout the room.”

Deanna – Closing Room Supervisor

According to her, the biggest misconception people have about working in a shoe factory is thinking that there are no opportunities within the industry. “The shoe industry needs to focus on training and get younger people involved from an early stage”. To promote gender diversity and equal opportunities, she suggests training in all areas.

With with an impressive 39 years of experience in the footwear industry. Deanna started her journey in a training school in 1983, a time when the shoe industry was incredibly popular. Throughout her career, Deanna has remained committed to her profession, with taking a break to have her children. She has been a part of Cheaney for 16 years, her experience and dedication have been invaluable in maintaining the high standards of our closing room, and we are proud to have her as part of our team.

“One of my proudest moments was teamwork within the closing room when I had breast cancer and had some time off. My supervisor assistant Caroline took over, and the girls & Robert stepped up and helped, making for a better place”

She continues “Cheaney’s as a whole treats women as an equal. We are listened to and can contribute as well.” We believe that every individual has unique skills and perspectives that can enrich our team and help us achieve our goals. “I feel proud to be a woman in this industry because we can make a difference” As such, we strive to create an inclusive workplace culture where everyone feels valued and supported. Through effective communication and mutual respect, we work together to create exceptional products that our customers love.

Our shoes go through over a hundred operations and many pairs of hands before they reach our customers. A significant number of these operations are carried out by skilled machinists in the closing room of our Desborough factory, all of whom are women. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we’re proud that our factory has a 49% female workforce. We remain dedicated to maintaining an equal workforce and opportunities for all. Today, we celebrate and honor the remarkable women who form the majority of our factory workers.