Engineering a brighter future: Female manufacturers on life at the top and attracting young talent

Murray claimed that greater flexibility would go a long way in luring more women into the sector. 

“The more flexible a company is, the more adaptable it is to changing priorities of the business and its workforce then the more likely it will be to find more women in senior roles,” she said. “We should champion these kinds of companies whenever we can.”

Warner-Adsetts suggested the evidence was overwhelming that businesses with greater diversity at board level outperformed those that do not.

“You really would have to be a flat earth believer to resist the facts,” she said. “Successful teams contain members who bring different qualities, perspectives and approaches – this ensures decision-making is undertaken from a more-informed position. I’ve never worked with an all-female board and I wouldn’t wish to for similar reasons. Diversity in the boardroom brings its challenges, particularly where a longstanding business has operated historically from an exclusively male perspective.”

She suggested that when it came to all-male teams, the more energy and time is expended on playing for “top dog” position than is spent on getting the job done.

“However, as a colleague of mine once commented, ‘when you walked in, the egos walked out’,” she said. “To this day, I maintain that this was a compliment!”

Likewise, Murray is of the belief that women make great decisions every day in all areas of life, “so why not in senior roles?” She explained that confidence and credibility are persuasive assets irrespective of gender. 

“Women need to become their own advocates for change by improving their self-belief and expectation that they can and will make it in their organisation, or be prepared to change how that organisation does things, or even start their own,” she said. “Manufacturing offers opportunities for women, as I have found, but you have to be prepared to step up and stand up for your ideas.”

Sue Taylor, MD of Edmar Engineering, claimed that there is still little diversity at the top of business and the majority of engineering firms in the supply chain are led by men. 

“There is a slow natural progression as more women gradually rise up the career ladder, but more could definitely be done,” she said. “We have seen a slight increase in women in higher roles, but they are still few and far between. On a positive note, men are becoming more accepting of women in higher levels… as long as we deliver what we say our firm will deliver.”

The good news is there are opportunities for women like never before, especially with the industry crying out for engineers. “Any employer worth a fig doesn’t care what gender fills its skill shortage,” said Warner-Adsetts. 

However, Alderman Tooling’s Karen Friendship warns that we are in danger of positively discriminating in favour of women, as many companies now start to recognise the diversity they can add to the board and simply select women to meet ratios.

“This should not be the case,” she said. “Women in particular should be measured and recognised on their own achievements and not by their gender. I’m in favour of everyone, from every walk of life, be given the opportunity at senior levels.

“In fact, the more diverse your team is, at any level of from a shopfloor team to a FTSE board, the better it will be in terms of capturing new ideas, harnessing different strengths and delivering new solutions.”

Concerned with issues surrounding gender diversity in business? Don’t miss Real Business’s First Women programme:

Drawing on years of the First Women movement and the phenomenal network of pioneering women the Awards has created, this programme features The First Women Awards and The First Women Summit  designed to educate, mentor and inspire women in all levels of business.

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