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On International Women in Engineering Day (23 June 2022), we reflect on and celebrate the host of female colleagues that make up our team at Ricoh.

The international day, which is in its ninth year, aims to encourage more women and girls into engineering.

Engineers are the lifeblood of any manufacturing site, but in the UK only 14.5% of all engineers are women*. This represents a 25% increase in women in engineering occupations since 2016, but we still have a long way to go.

Here at RPL, we have some inspiring role models who are leading the charge for female engineers and one of these is Ling He.

Ling joined RPL in October 2017 as a Technical Sales Engineer in the Inkjet department and chatted to us earlier this year about balancing life as a Chemical Engineer and mom…

Why did you choose to become an engineer?

I was the first person in my family actually to go into science! Ever since I was in secondary school, and my chemistry teacher demonstrated experiments like colour change during acid-base titration and the physical properties of magnesium in water and flame, I was fascinated – and have been ever since. For me, chemical equations are like fun puzzles to rearrange and solve! I then went on to a degree in Chemistry, before completing a Master of Science in Advanced Particulate Materials at the University of Leeds. These studies took me into the nano dimension of materials to explore the real substance of everything around us – looking at glass, or water or oil and asking what in the molecular structure makes it like this? After graduation, I found Ricoh and applied this same fascination to inkjet technology by studying our inkjet printheads and looking at how the ink behaves inside and outside of them. It’s more micro-scale work – which for me is the most interesting!

​​​​​​​Is there anyone who has positively impacted your career?

Without a doubt it would be my Industrial Supervisor for my PhD study. She was a leading scientist for Proctor & Gamble, who I was lucky enough to work with on a P&G funded project. She was everything I wanted to be – so energetic and enthusiastic, an expert in her field and all while juggling two children, the youngest of which was 2 years old at the time. I was a single mother myself and faced with the same dilemma of getting the balance right between my family and my career. I often went to her for advice and she never hesitated to offer help. She showed me that it is possible for a woman to achieve success in both!

Can you tell us a little about what your day-to-day role involves?

My role essentially ensures that Ricoh’s printheads perform correctly for each customer application. So I look at the whole process; from how the ink behaves in the printhead; to the ink droplets moving through the nozzles and landing on the substrate; to the printer design, environment and maintenance and then advise the best ink/printhead/waveform combination. You might not know that there are 1,280 nozzles in the Ricoh GEN5 printhead, so that is a lot of ink jetting to get just right!

What advice would you give to other women considering a career in engineering?

Get involved in STEM activities! I was a STEM ambassador at university, going into secondary schools to show young people the chemical experiments that first set my imagination on fire! I would be very happy to see STEM subjects brought into people’s lives at an early stage – regardless of their gender. I’d love to think of myself playing a part in driving public awareness that women make just as brilliant engineers! Even now, I go into my son’s school for things like Career Days to talk about being an engineer.

Most people are quite surprised when they hear that I’m a Chemical Engineer – I hope that as time goes on, people will be less and less surprised to hear this! I am grateful to work for an international open-minded company that provides lots of channels for women to have as many opportunities as men, but I know it is not the same for everyone. Ricoh has the vision to understand that by supporting my journey as a single mother, they create a happy employee that is motivated to work and perform to their best.

​​​​​​​What has been your career highlight?

The Saturn project that I worked on from 2017 to 2021 brought the first mid-range water-based inkjet printer for laminated decor to the market. When Covid hit it, it made the launch of the machine very challenging, but the great teamwork of the RPL and RCL teams have made this a great success. This project also won the Ricoh Way Recognition Programme 2019 Award.

​​​​​​​*Source: Labour Force Survey Q3 2020

For more information about International Women in Engineering Day, visit https://www.inwed.org.uk/about/

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