Women make up 47% of the overall UK job market , but in some sectors, the gender gap is much broader. In traditionally male dominated sectors such as manufacturing and engineering, women are still struggling to make their way. In the latest report by manufacturing industry body, the EEF, women make up just 23% of the manufacturing workforce, with 9% being engineers and only 5% in management positions .
However, paving the way for young girls in manufacturing are some incredible female leaders and beacons of hope. As an initiative that encourages young people to look towards a career in manufacturing, Bradford Manufacturing Week has launched a campaign that aims to highlight some of the excellent women involved.
As part of the week (8-12th October), air management experts, Mansfield Pollard are offering site tours, work experience days and talks to the district’s young people. Joanna Robinson, managing director, is enthusiastic about engaging with the next generation and as a female leader in the industry, her voice is particularly powerful when it comes to young women.
Joanna’s business breaks the industry mould when it comes to gender balance, with 60% of their board made up of female directors. Joanna is joined by finance director, Allison Howgate, and sales director, Louise Frankland. Under Joanna’s leadership, business results continue to improve, with growth at record levels in the last 12 months, step change improvements in staff engagement levels, and customer service pledges*.
Heavily involved in initiatives that encourage the next generation of manufacturers, Joanna believes that “a diverse and inclusive workforce is crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that drive innovation.”
She explains: “As one of the few women in this industry, I believe that I have a responsibility to promote career opportunities for both sexes and in particular I hope that my example inspires other women to pursue careers in manufacturing. Being involved with initiatives such as Bradford Manufacturing Week give us chance to speak to the young people in our community and inspire them to follow in our footsteps.”
Bradford Manufacturing Week aims to engage with around 75 local schools, reaching 14-18 year old school students to create 1,000 work experience days across the Bradford district. With headline sponsorship from Barclays, more than 1,000 school students are already signed up for a week of events, tours, work placements, company visits and seminars from October 8th.
Female-led blind rivet manufacturer, GESIPA, is also opening its doors to Bradford’s young people, with the intention of encouraging career choices based around STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects.
Managing director, Diana Scholefield, who joined the company in 1995 as a project engineer and worked her way through the ranks to become MD in 2014, is offering site visits and school talks as part of Bradford Manufacturing Week in a bid to change the perceptions of students and parents around career opportunities in manufacturing.
She said: “Being a woman in manufacturing and engineering can be challenging as it’s such a male dominated environment. I’ve had many hurdles to overcome over the years, in particular around proving myself to my peers. But as more women join the sector, the gap is getting smaller and with female role models at the helm of a raft of successful manufacturing businesses, we have a responsibility to encourage more young people – and particularly young women - in.
“At GESIPA we actively encourage girls to look at and consider STEM subjects and careers by hosting and supporting local initiatives and events. Bradford Manufacturing Week is a perfect way to facilitate this process and further educate young people around the diverse roles and opportunities in this district – and beyond. We’d love to see the Week become a national event that can be embraced outside of West Yorkshire because this is the way we future proof the pipeline of talented young people coming into our industry.”
Support from Bradford’s female manufacturing leaders is good news for Nick Garthwaite, President of Bradford Chamber and managing director of international chemicals and detergents manufacturer, Christeyns. Nick launched the Bradford Manufacturing Week concept in April and has personally pledged to treble the company’s available apprenticeships as a result of the initiative.
Speaking about the week, Nick said: “To make Bradford Manufacturing Week a success we need all manufacturers to open their doors and help us to inspire, excite and engage young people in an industry which keeps our sector thriving.
“Young men and women are key to the securing the future of our industry and there is a very clear need for gifted young manufacturers and those wanting to support the sector through roles such as accounting, marketing or HR. We are particularly delighted that Bradford Manufacturing Week is providing a platform for some of the country’s most influential and inspiring female leaders to take the spotlight and showcase the career opportunities available.”
Nick added: “It is proven that a diverse workforce performs better  and having a healthy gender balance is crucial for the manufacturing sector. As international businesses, GESIPA and Mansfield Pollard set a great example for young people, not just in our district, but across the nation. This may be the inaugural year for Bradford Manufacturing Week but we are confident that with such fantastic support and buy in, it will be embraced across the country from next year and together, we can change the face of the future of manufacturing in the UK.”
Visit www.bradfordmanufacturingweek.co.uk for more details.
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* Mansfield Pollard: Improvements in staff engagement levels (circa 10% increase), and customer service pledges (12% rise in performance).