Our Founder & Managing Director, Gary Sheader, attended the Women in Manufacturing event at the Manufacturing Technology Centre on 31st October 2023, organised by Megan Ronayne & Kate Willsher. He came away inspired and brimming with new ideas.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the event:
- Why are we struggling to attract and retain more women into manufacturing? Jennifer Castaneda-Navarrete shared her study on Women in manufacturing: the case for a gender-transformative digitalisation at the event, which revealed that only 26% of people employed in the UK manufacturing sector are women, only 11% of C-Suite roles are filled by women, and that women are paid 17% less than men on average. Surprisingly there is still work to be done to make the sector more attractive and fair for women.
- Manufacturing has a branding problem. Manufacturing is still perceived by many young people as a dirty hands-on role on the shop floor. The bandwidth and exciting roles the manufacturing sector has to offer is not clear, and needs to be promoted more effectively within schools, and to parents and grandparents of children.
- Manufacturing has a golden opportunity. Two challenges seen often within manufacturing are… 1. The challenge of attracting and retaining talent, and 2. The challenge of adopting new technologies. A focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering & maths) subjects and a joined up approach between schools, colleges, and the manufacturing sector, and how these subjects practically relate to today’s manufacturing environment and challenges, could be a real game changer.
- People need to feel heard. Some of the feedback from the workshops at the event eluded to people not feeling that they have a voice within their own organisations and don’t feel comfortable being authentic and open. This is an issue that all leaders within manufacturing should be working to address. Everyone deserves to feel fulfilled at work, to be their authentic selves and to feel heard and valued.
So, why do we need more women in manufacturing?
The UK manufacturing sector is absolutely key to the UK economy and contributes approx. 23% to overall GDP. Contrary to government figures of approx. 10%, Oxford Economics recently conducted a study (The True Impact of UK Manufacturing) that took into consideration the total impact of the manufacturing supply chain and the many businesses and jobs totally reliant on the sector. Without manufacturing we would be in a major trouble.
To ensure the manufacturing sector survives and thrives into the future, we need to attract and retain more women into the sector and here are the key reasons why:
- Addressing the Skills Shortage. The UK manufacturing sector is facing an increasing skills shortage. Fewer young people are entering careers in manufacturing, and we have an ageing workforce on the cusp of retirement. Attracting more young people, including women into the sector would help to increase the pool of talent. 26% of the sector being women is not good enough, and shift more towards 50% will help to reduce the risk of the skills challenges.
- Diversity and Inclusion. Increasing the representation of women, and people from different backgrounds promotes a more diverse and inclusive workplace. And more diverse and inclusive workplaces bring fresh perspectives, new ideas, innovation, and more cognitive bandwidth to solving complex issues, which are all in need within the UK manufacturing community.
- Gender Equality. Challenging stereotypes and biases around why women are not being treated equally will benefit society as a whole. There are deeper reasons as to why this is an issue, which open dialogue around and adult approaches to addressing issues, can only benefit workplaces, their families and communities.
- Improved Workplace Leadership & Culture. Having only 11% of C-Suite positions filled by women in the manufacturing sector is hindering our ability to lead businesses with balance. When masculinity and femininity are in balance, it leads to a much healthier leadership perspective and approach.
- Girls Outperforming Boys. 2023 GCSE results show that girls are still outperforming boys academically. Overall 68.2% of students were graded 4/C and above, which for girls was 71.7%, and boys 64.9%. Although GCSE results don’t provide the whole picture of a students capability, missing out on so many girls not entering the manufacturing sector, is detrimental to the sector.
Within The Manufacturers’ Alliance community we have lots of inspiring women that are doing amazingly well at leading their businesses and teams. The same applies across the whole UK manufacturing sector. We need to do a much better job of celebrating this… and celebrating how fantastic our manufacturing community is. This will help to promote the sector to whole marketplace, and boost the perception and confidence within society, which clearly has to change.
The UK manufacturing sector and its branding needs to do a better job of showing off how brilliant it is, and the diverse roles available to young people. What are you waiting for? Get showing off and promoting what you have to offer.