Women in manufacturing, why aren't we seeing the results we need?

 Sep 2016

Laura McBrown Women In Manufacturing"I am genuinely concerned that we will not be able to attract more women into manufacturing and onto our boards of directors unless we change our strategy, challenge popular beliefs and work harder to breakdown the stereotypes held by society.  Don’t get me wrong I believe in fair and merit-based selection, I expect everyone in my team to contribute but, in my experience, a more diverse group offers a broader range of ideas and achieves a far more considered and successful result.  We are all responsible for nurturing the engineering talent pool but how are we going to get the results we need?

We’ve made progress, the EEF’s report on Women in Manufacturing released in March provides an update of the female representation on the Boards of FTSE 100 manufacturing companies and shows an increase of 4% to 23% from 19% back in 2013.  Excellent progress but sadly the number of women holding executive board positions has remained largely unchanged at around 8%, clearly we’ve some way to go.

Back in the early noughties I was studying electronic engineering and on my first day I remember feeling surprised to be the only girl on my course, looking back I don’t think I ever expected a lot of female students, but just me!! It felt really odd and I remember questioning my decision.  Today despite the good work being done by numerous organisations such as the “Your Life” campaign which aims to increase the number of students taking A-level Physics and Maths, and double the proportion of undergraduate engineering and technology degrees taken by women, we are still struggling to attract women into these careers but why?  Why is this such a difficult task?

I believe we have missed a glaring obvious point, something so fundamental to women that unless we address it these numbers just are not going to increase to the levels we need.  Women, on balance, tend to possess more feminine values than their masculine counter parts.  These values include caring for others, quality of life and the importance of relationships. Many women are drawn to careers in nursing, teaching and HR and what all these careers have in common is that they resonate with those feminine values - to take care of and do something for others.  If we want to attract more women into engineering we need to demonstrate the feminine traits of our industry, I believe it is that simple after all that is why I am in engineering.

My motivation to run an electronics company is one of my best friends Sandra.  Sandra fought hereditary breast cancer like a true warrior, I witnessed strength in her that I have never known.  She watched her mum and grandmother pass away fron the disease and she was determined to beat the cancer for her two beautiful daughters.  Sadly Sandra lost her battle 2 years ago but I cannot help thinking that her untimely death could have been avoided if the screening technology had been available.  Screening in young women is difficult because the breast tissue is too dense and the technology is just not available yet but I’m understand there are trials underway. 

I am fortunate to have the opportunity to run an electronics company that specialises in manufacturing medical devices, we can support companies who have developed solutions to healthcare problems and ensure they that their products are manufactured to the highest regulatory standards required for a global market and ultimatly reach as many people in need of them as possible.   We have the opportunity to make a difference and because we can I shall do everything in my power to make sure that we do. 

So getting back to recruiting women into engineering, you only have to look at the race for life campaign to see how many women want to make a difference, there is clearly a passion there.  So perhaps some of those women need to pick up the mantle, take it a bit further and contribute something to the technology.

Engineering needs more women, their contribution is immensely valuable, they need to step up and we as an industry have a responsibility to get out there and explain why, maybe then we shall see the results we are looking for."

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