International Women’s Day 2024: ARaymond’s Carole Neyrinck talks sustainability, women in STEM careers

As we mark International Women’s Day this year on March 8, the theme for the 2024 global celebration is “Invest in Women; Accelerate Progress”. This theme represents the importance of companies shifting to a greener economic approach, while also recognizing that it’s critical to amplify the voices of women in these discussions. 

One woman who is very familiar with these themes is Carole Neyrinck, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager for ARaymond, a global supplier of fastening systems for the automotive, energy, construction, agriculture, and healthcare industries.

In this Q&A, Neyrinck shares her thoughts on her journey to her current leadership role at ARaymond, the overall state of women in the STEM industries, as well as how representation can be improved going forward:

Q: Tell us about your career journey, and how you got involved in sustainable development.

A: I spent three decades working as a biochemist engineer, after earning my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in this area. After a long career in the pharmaceutical industry, I joined ARaymond in my role as CSR manager starting in 2019. My job was always challenging, but I was able to raise my three children while working in production workshops and then implementing information systems. Soon after joining ARaymond to lead CSR, I began to focus on environmental goals, bringing clarity and structure in the approach so that the company acts in coordination for all projects in all departments. We work to limit our contributions to climate change, and with our partners to support them do the same. Some of them tried to push back, but I was strong and assertive, and trusted and encouraged by my management. I constantly develop my knowledge and skills, always learning and exploring new territories.

Q: Why is it important for companies to develop policies that recognize the impact of climate change?

A: When you think about climate change and the need to decarbonize, all companies are affected. We work to limit our contributions to climate change, and with our suppliers to help them do the same. Taking care of the environment consistently has become an increasingly strong emphasis each year, as it’s no longer an option to ignore it.

Q: As we mark International Women’s Day, how has being a woman impacted you in your career?

A:  I’m thankful that I was raised in a family with a mother who was very attentive to being independent, and not relying on anyone for your living condition. Having that as my background, I didn’t really feel different from a man in terms of my skills and competencies. I was raised with principles of equity and equality. 
When I started working, in the team of my peers, I was the only woman. And my direct reports were only men. I was very young, only 25, and the men were sometimes 50 years old. Some of them tried to push back, but I was strong and assertive, and skilled and competent. For me, if you are competent and skilled, you will be recognized. I always tried to be as competent as possible, always learning. And now I’ve passed these important lessons from my mother onto my own children. 

Q: What barriers or obstacles do women face in advancing their careers within the CSR field, and how can these challenges be addressed?

A: For women in industries where they are underrepresented, it's all about being confident in yourself. I’ve rarely felt differences between men and women in work, and in those rare cases, I would always stand up for myself when I felt disrespected. In those few instances, I would not let this pass, and was straightforward to tell the person not to do it again.

In terms of career advancement, mentoring is a key element that can help women advance in their careers, and can help build on the core skills you bring into a job. You must always be learning, and have programs in place to support that learning.

Having supportive bosses and mentoring programs — like I do in my current role at ARaymond — has been a key element of my ability to grow throughout my career, and I make sure we continue to offer that mentoring to young men and women today. A supportive male boss can help usher in a generation of confident new leaders that’s a strong mix of men and women. And in CSR, the number of women taking on key roles is quite encouraging.

A combination of solid roots, strong skills development, and being in a group that empowers you will lead to the amplification of women’s voices in key roles both on the factory floor and in the boardroom.

Q: How important is it for companies in all industries to embrace CSR goals; and how important is it for women to have key roles in that implementation?

A: CSR goals are essential because the world is becoming more disrupted and complex, and our global success relies on diverse collaboration. We must anticipate risks and see opportunities to get better prepared, so we’ll be better positioned for sustainability. We recently joined a pact of 150 business leaders in France to commit to decarbonization, and our efforts in automotive, energy, construction, agriculture, and construction are all moving in an eco-friendly direction.
Women must be included in the conversations about this critical decarbonization planning. By nature, women are more focused on taking care of something for the long-term. Women are a key asset for CSR, and men are also needed there — a diversity of opinions is the key. Beyond gender diversity, we also need a mix of ages and cultures offering their input.

Q: As a female in a leadership role, what are the key changes you aspire to see for future generations? How can we attract more women to engineering and other STEM fields? 

A: I see the role of the engineer developing to be more about the capacity to develop solutions that contribute to the common good, and not simply fulfilling customer expectation.
There is a role for women to play in that. Engineers need to develop solutions with a systemic approach, and consider the social implications of these solutions and how to make a positive contribution to the environment. The role of engineer is changing, and is more than just technical. People who can embrace this approach will succeed, including women from the current and future generations.