How to attract more women into the diverse world of manufacturing

In this piece, we look at what should be done to improve the ratio of women in manufacturing.

The manufacturing industry needs to reach out to women at an early age to help close the gender gap, according to the managing director of Boxed Up, a female-led packaging business.

Manufacturers are experiencing a gradual shift in women taking up senior roles, as a report last year showed, women account for 23 per cent of all board seats in FTSE manufacturers, up from 21 per cent the previous year.

Kate Hulley is the company’s first female owner and she says the same story is true across the board. ‘Figures show only a quarter of the industry workforce are actually women, so of course I would like to encourage more women to seek out careers in such a fascinating and diverse industry.’

With such positive case studies of women succeeding in industry, why are women opting out of, or indeed not opting in to, careers in manufacturing?

It’s thought there are two main contributors to the gender imbalance in the industry. Many women may have outdated perceptions of what it means to work in manufacturing, which includes visions of smoky factories, assembly lines and men in uniform.

But primarily, the industry is just not talked about at a time when people are making choices about their future.

Hulley says, ‘The opportunities within manufacturing are widely unknown. It’s not talked about at school as a career choice, you have to seek out the information yourself. So it really comes down to whether you meet somebody that can tell you about it and spark your interest.’

The problem isn’t entirely new, as there has been lots of campaigning over recent years to get more women to pursue careers in the STEM industries of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

In 2014, Women in Manufacturing conducted a study of 5,000 women to find out key areas of improvement for attracting more women into industry. The top results included better personal development courses, flexible working opportunities, more readily available careers advice, related refresher courses and improved mentoring schemes.

Many of the above initiatives target people at school, college and university, so as women begin to leave education over the next years, we could see a steadier flow of young women taking up careers in manufacturing.

But for now, it’s up to the industry’s current female workers, like Kate, to pass on the message. ‘There’s great opportunities in the industry women are missing out on. Buck the trend and break the mould – it makes you stand out from the crowd after all.’

See also: Closing the gender gap – more women are showing interest in male-dominated courses

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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