Womens Engineering Society: Inspiring women as engineers, scientists and technical leaders

Role Models

Carol Burke

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Carol Burke

Awards: CBI First Women Awards 2006, IET Nuffield Silver Medal


Burke began her career with the British Steel Corporation, gaining experience in very heavy engineering and then moved to GKN and progressed through the manufacturing structure, opening a new factory and introducing new technology and working practices.

In 1994 she moved to Premier Exhaust Systems, part of the Unipart Group of Companies (UGC) as manufacturing manager. In order to respond to the automotive industry requirements for a 'global' service a joint venture was formed between UGC and Ebersacher Gmbh in 1998. At the age of 30 she was appointed managing director of Unipart Eberspacher Exhaust Systems Limited (UEES). She now runs a £500 million plus turnover business.

Carol has steered the company through good and bad times - May 2000 saw a turnover loss at UEES of 40 per cent as a result of BMW's sale of Rover Cars. However, pressure to protect the interest of all UEES stakeholders also brought diversification opportunities and in 2001 UEES purchased a steel fuel tank business to complement its existing exhaust operation which contributed to UEES remaining profitable during this challenging period. Growth came with the contracts secured for steel fuel tanks for Aston Martin, Bentley and Jaguar and the New Discovery 3/Range Rover Sport was the biggest single piece of business ever secured by UEES requiring an investment of around £15 million across development, facilities and tooling. When MG Rover eventually closed in April 2005 UEES growth performance was still motoring and by 2007 sales are projected to be 50 per cent higher than in 2001.

The judges for the CBI's Real Business First Women Awards commented: "Carol has been instrumental in turning around a troubled business. She ensured that it never let its customers down, even when it was having to cope with all the problems at Rover. She demonstrated very clearly the importance of teamwork and diversity in maintaining great spirit at all times among the workforce. It would have been easy - and unsurprising - if the German partner had decided to walk away; the fact that they didn't is testament to Carol's leadership."

"The spirit of entrepreneurship among British women has always been strong but historically opportunities to prove these skills have been limited. Today, happily, things are different. The creativity, enterprise, passion and innovation of women across the UK are bringing a renewed drive to the success of UK companies. These awards help us celebrate this success and highlight role models for the next generation of female business leaders."

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