The message from EEF’s report is clear manufacturers are heading in the right direction, but firms in the industry cannot afford to let up. David Atkinson, head of manufacturing at Lloyds, said: It is reassuring to see that manufacturers are embracing change and addressing the lack of women within UK boardrooms. However, more needs to be done so that businesses of all sizes recognise the need to develop the representation of women from the factory floor.
The growth prospects of manufacturing businesses will depend on the ability to tackle stereotypes. By changing the perceptions of traditional industry, we can encourage a more diverse demographic to consider manufacturing-related careers. It is vital that we help improve the supply of talent to the sector to foster creativity and innovation, particularly if our nations makers are to remain competitive on the global stage.
As such, we asked four women in manufacturing what challenges theyve had to overcome, and what the industry could do to attract more future talent.
According to COO Bridie Warner-Adsetts of construction firm Naylor Industries, the true work of attracting talent needs to start in the classroom.
Research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development suggested that at the age of 15, boys are four times more interested than girls in pursuing careers in fields such as manufacturing. In higher education and beyond, girls are far more likely to opt out of STEM-related subjects.
Read more about attracting young people to STEM subjects:
- Nurturing STEM education can take British firms into the future?
- Revolutionising STEM education: Fun is key to success when it comes to creating future scientists
- MyScience CEO talks STEM gender progress and how to add diversity to the sector
The OECDs triennial Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) also suggested that females fell behind males when it came to thinking like scientists. Yetthe differences are not the result of intellectual variances in the male and female brain: if they were, the outcome of the tests would be broadly the same for all countries which they were not. Instead, girls lagged behind for cultural reasons. Girls are shown to be much more likely than boys to think they are not good at mathematics and science, and their lack of confidence can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It concerns me greatly that girls and young women are bombarded by unhealthy messages from the media about their role in society,” said Warner-Adsetts. “We have been talking about this issue for decades and yet it continues to worsen not improve. I mean, who the heck is Kim Kardashian anyway
Schools and parents have vital roles to play to encourage girls from a young age to resist role stereotyping and to instil confidence. In particular, I think the influence of mothers on their daughters is where the real power lies. I had few, if any, role models in engineering or manufacturing, but my mum told me, over and over, that I could be whatever I wanted to be. I believed her then and I still do!
As for positive role models of women in senior level positions, Im going to be controversial here I dont believe there is a crippling shortage at all! Angela Merkel, Christina Lagarde, Sheryl Sandberg to name but a few. The problem is not a shortage of amazing women it’s how they are portrayed in the media compared to the coverage that so called celebrities attract.
Similarly, Glynnis Murray from One-LUX, which designs, assembles and suppliers emergency LED lighting solutions, is of the belief that employers, schools, parents and even young people themselves need to be careful of unconscious bias along gender lines when it comes to roles in business or industry. Brits should encourage young people to take a wider view of the workplace, and to consider manufacturing as open to talent and hard work whoever you are, she said.
Plymouth-based Alderman Tooling’s MD, Karen Friendship, suggested that more women in manufacturing needed to visit schools, as well as enable young people to visit the factories and the technology being used first-hand.
This will excite them to consider a career in engineering and manufacturing and then we can start talking about expanding their skills and progressing their career,” she said. “If my role as a leader of a successful company within a male dominated sector inspires other women to strive to be senior figures then all the better.
Read on to find out how these women think other females need to become their own advocates of change.