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Strata's workforce leaders share perspectives on women in manufacturing

UAE-based aerostructures manufacturer Strata Manufacturing prides itself on providing opportunities for its multinational, female-dominant workforce.
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Strata Manufacturing women in aerospace manufacturing

Mariam Al Jaberi, senior production supervisor (right). Source | Strata Manufacturing

Strata Manufacturing (Al Ain, United Arab Emirates), a subsidiary of Mubadala Investment Co., manufactures composite aerospace parts and components for the Boeing 787, Airbus A350 and other commercial aircraft.

First opened in 2010, Strata now employs more than 500 workers and prides itself on its 52% female, multinational workforce – more specifically, of  the part of Strata’s workforce from the United Arab Emirates, 86% of employees are female. According to Ismail Ali Abdulla, CEO of Strata Manufacturing, the UAE government actively encourages the role of women in the workplace and has introduced measures to achieve equality in all industries.

Ali Abdulla says, “While aerospace appears as a male-dominated industry, more women are joining the industry than ever before. We have always underscored the importance of achieving a balanced combination of people, vision and talent to compete with the strongest global companies. Our focus in not just solely on women, and not just solely on men, but on the next generation who will lead the industry.”

In its efforts to grow this next-generation workforce, Strata emphasizes outreach programs with partner universities, and has set up workplace practices such as a Career Development Plan to guide employees in their careers, and offers part-time employment options, which Ali Abdulla says is attractive to mothers with young families.

“Strata’s female pioneers are also exporting our approach beyond the UAE,” Ali Abdulla says. A group of Strata’s young engineers and technicians have been traveling to Boeing’s (Chicago, Ill., U.S.) Salt Lake City, Utah, location over the past two years to conduct training sessions on the manufacturing process of the 787 vertical fin, with the aim of delivering the first vertical fin part from Strata’s facility by the end of this year.

“At Strata … women fill positions across various teams that all contribute towards the overall delivery of our ‘Made with Pride in the UAE’ products. From engineering, communications, finance, quality control, supply chain, planning and operations, they all have essential jobs to fulfill and key roles to play in the continued success of Strata as a global aerospace supply chain leader,” Ali Abdulla says.

Three of these female employees, Maryam Al Kuwaiti, Noura Al Braiki, and Mariam Al Jaberi, shared their experiences with CompositesWorld:

CW: The aviation and manufacturing industries have traditionally been male-dominated fields. What has your experience been like as a female employee in manufacturing?

Maryam Al Kuwaiti, manufacturing engineer: It is no longer a surprise that a female Emirati like me can be part of the STEM field and can even excel in it. In the UAE, we have been blessed with leaders who are constantly encouraging the role of women in various sectors. As a result, I and my fellow women colleagues have excelled and prospered in the STEM field, and the UAE’s aerospace manufacturing industry is now at the forefront of women’s empowerment in the region. During my career with Strata I have been able to excel in what I do and to further contribute to the community and society in general. Over the past two years I have actively participated and engaged with the youth in a number of STEM-related initiatives across the UAE. These have included Strata Talks, an initiative that brings young people to our facilities to learn more about what we do and how they can pursue a similar career, in addition to the ‘Ask a Mentor’ series, which engages with a group of young Emiratis at the HH Mohammed Bin Zayed Majlis for Future Generations.

Noura Al Braiki, senior production lead: While each of us has the freedom to choose where we may want to work and pursue a career, I believe that the key question to ask when making that choice is, “Will this be a place where I will get the support I need to grow, both professionally and personally?” My journey as a woman in this industry has been challenging and very rewarding at the same time. From the beginning, my ambitions in the aerospace industry include being a leader, reaching great heights and taking upon a huge responsibility that will prove [wrong] the misconception of women in STEM fields.

Strata Manufacturing women in aerospace manufacturing

Noura Al Braiki, senior production lead. Source | Strata Manufacturing

CW: How did you become interested in a career in the aerospace manufacturing field?

Maryam Al Kuwaiti, manufacturing engineer: My internship experience at Airbus is something I will never forget. I remember the first time we were out on the shop floor on the A380 final assembly line in Toulouse, and seeing these huge aircraft, I really felt the facility and the aircraft coming to life. It was really a beautiful thing. Witnessing all the efforts and hard work from all levels of the company coming together to produce such a magnificent product was truly amazing. Because this vast and challenging industry is also one that the UAE envisions and aspires for, I soon realized that the aerospace manufacturing field is where I want to be to lead and help the UAE industry grow.

Mariam Al Jaberi, senior production supervisor: The aerospace manufacturing field is now among the most complex industries in the world, with some of the major advancements in science and technology today being applied and implemented in this industry. This has made this field quite challenging, and for someone like me who enjoys a challenge, the aerospace manufacturing field is perfect.

CW: What has been your proudest accomplishment so far in this field?

Noura Al Braiki, senior production lead: Ten years ago, I started my career manufacturing aircraft parts, and today it gives me tremendous honor to be the first female Emirati to be responsible for 14 production lines and oversee a huge number of employees. I am grateful that Strata has entrusted me with the responsibility to manage the company’s production and ensure that the UAE delivers high quality aero-structure components to a growing list of global clients, including Airbus and Boeing.

Maryam Al Kuwaiti, manufacturing engineer: The Boeing Vertical Fin program is considered a game-changer in the region’s aviation industry, and for Strata to be the key supplier of such aerostructure composite parts is an important milestone in the company’s growth. I am proud to be one of the first two Emirati female engineers to have completed the manufacturing engineering training program at The Boeing Company’s headquarters in the U.S. in May 2018. Throughout a period of eight months, I underwent a rigorous training program aimed at ensuring efficiency in the vertical fin production line, and in empowering Strata engineers with a deep understanding of technical responsibilities in adherence with the customers’ requirements. A key part of the training centered on the entire production system, including electrical system testing, and hydraulic and avionics systems. Upon completion of the course, I truly felt empowered within my role at Strata with the additional knowledge and skills that I was able to implement in my own further learnings and to upskill the talent of my colleagues to ensure the smooth transfer of the Boeing 787 VF project from the U.S. to our facility in the UAE.

CW: What is your goal right now in aerospace manufacturing?

Noura Al Braiki, senior production lead: As with many of the pioneering women at Strata, my goal is to continue to lead the way in the country’s aerospace manufacturing industry. Being a part of Strata provides me with a unique opportunity to set an example as a successful UAE citizen. As a woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry, we now find ourselves in positions of leadership and I believe we should continue to make the most of these opportunities and hold the door wide open to enable other women to walk through it. More importantly, as a female Emirati, I want to continue serving as an inspiration for the younger generation in achieving their goals. I want them to know that there are many opportunities ahead of them and that it is okay to fail. Failure should not be taken negatively and should instead be looked at it as an opportunity to learn, grow, and push boundaries that ultimately lead to success. We must all take a chance and fail so we can learn to tackle failure better, smarter and faster.

Maryam Al Kuwaiti, manufacturing engineer: “Putting aside everything Strata and the UAE have achieved so far, I know there is a lot more that can and needs to be done in our industry. Moving forward, my goal is to continue to further enhance my skills, expand my knowledge and constantly grow my career in aerospace manufacturing. This will enable me to contribute towards nation-building and to the success of the company.

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