According to the EEF, the average UK manufacturing company is currently made up of 85% men and 15% women. And while this has slightly improved over the last eight years, there’s still a long way to go to close the gender gap. Misconceptions about manufacturing have historically impacted women’s desire to join its ranks.
Being viewed as a male-centric culture is often seen as a critical driver of women’s underrepresentation in the industry. Additionally, historical gender bias that excludes women from managerial roles, such as production supervisors and operations managers, has meant that career progression has not been easy for women in the industry.
Manufacturing today is a growing industry that is currently experiencing a shortage of skilled professionals due to a lack of apprenticeship programmes. Although the recent introduction of STEM to many universities will help this situation, it will be some time before the number of graduates required is ready to fill vacant positions. Industry Week recently said, “Compounding this problem and creating urgency around getting more women into manufacturing is the fact that plenty of jobs are out there ready to be filled, as manufacturers currently face a workforce crisis.” Closing the skills gap and filling vacancies are good reasons to invite more female workers into the manufacturing industry, but there are many more advantages to consider. This article will look at the advantages of attracting more female workers to your manufacturing business and how you can leverage the skills they bring to the workplace.
BE MORE COMPETITIVE
It’s well known that diversity can be the key to innovation. By encouraging women into the manufacturing workplace, companies will find that a more diverse structure will comprise different mindsets that will focus on problems and solutions in multiple ways. This will inevitably lead to quicker results and improved practices that will contribute significantly to the competitiveness of your company, moving your business forward and getting things done.
LEVERAGE UNTAPPED TALENT
While women outperform men in gaining higher education credentials, the number of females in manufacturing leadership roles still lags behind other sectors. A Hewlett-Packard study on internal hiring practices found that while men will apply for a job even if they only meet around 60 per cent of the required qualification, women only apply for jobs where they match 100 per cent of the criteria. And Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, said in her TED talk, “We’re raising our girls to be perfect, and were raising our boys to be brave.” While women need to take a leaf out of their male counterpart’s book and be more courageous in applying for roles in industry, it does mean that currently, women candidates offer potentially higher standards – when they apply for a vacancy that they have all the skills and experience needed for that role.
FLEXIBLE WORKING ENVIRONMENT
Perceived work-life balance in manufacturing is another area that often stops women from pursuing employment in the industry. Historically more likely to have to juggle work and family commitments, the standard eight hour day has prevented many women from entering full-time work. But by introducing formal wellbeing policies and flexible working, you can open up opportunities to diversify your workforce.
Additionally, by diversifying, offering flexible working and other wellbeing policies, you can avoid the turnover often associated with businesses that have poor culture. Tailoring strategic plans for diversity improves inclusion for women and therefore, better retention rates. And it will encourage more female top talent to your manufacturing business.
THE NEXT GENERATION
Development in STEM subjects in universities across the UK has seen a rise in women choosing to focus on this subject area, and therefore we expect to see an increased number of women looking for roles in manufacturing and other industries going forward. For companies to succeed in the future, they will need to have workplaces that focus on methods to support women’s success. Those women who are forging a path in manufacturing today will be tomorrows’ leaders, changing the perception of the industry and encouraging more women to take up roles in manufacturing, thus enabling your company’s success as we head into the next decade.
Manufacturing should be doing more to encourage women into the workplace. Opportunities should be equal for men and women, encouraging fresh thinking and new ideas, from which innovation is born. By acknowledging the need for change, and by implementing action in the workplace, you will encourage yourself and others to manifest this change for the future. Becoming diverse and inclusive will make your business more attractive to women who want to develop a career in manufacturing, and being perceived as a forward-thinking employer will set you ahead of the pack when it comes to recruiting top talent and retaining employees.