International Women’s Day 2022: Manufacturing has made some great progress but we’re not there yet…

Posted on 8 Mar 2022 by James Devonshire

It's International Women's Day 2022 and here at The Manufacturer, we're excited and proud to champion women in industry and all the amazing things they are doing.

IWD pose. Image credit:
The IWD pose can be used to show your commitment to calling out bias, smashing stereotypes, breaking inequality and rejecting discrimination.

Celebrated annually worldwide on March 8, International Women’s Day (IWD) is designed to recognise women’s achievements and reinforce equality. This year’s campaign theme is #BreakTheBias and there is also an associated pose:

My colleague Lanna has interviewed some amazing women in manufacturing for articles she’s produced to celebrate IWD (link at the bottom).

For my own contribution, I wanted to explain the change that I’ve certainly witnessed over the years (although more is still needed).

My own experience of women in manufacturing

When I was a child in the 80s, my father had a small manufacturing firm a spin-off from Westland Helicopters that made industrial doors. I still vividly remember when I used to go to see dad at work and wandering around the factory. Bizarrely, I used to love the smell and the grime and having to use Swarfega to clean my hands after each visit.

But what didn’t occur to me back then was that every single person working on the shop floor was male. As an eight-year-old child this reality simply didn’t register and just seemed the norm. Fast forward to today though, and I can see just how male dominated my father’s business was (and probably many others like it at the time).

However, even though the manufacturing industry has made great strides and more women are now a part of it, we’re not there yet. Indeed, according to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), women make up just 37% of the manufacturing workforce.

Nevertheless, it is so refreshing and encouraging to see the step change that has occurred in many manufacturing firms over the years. Only yesterday I spoke with Laura McBrown and Kate Sharp, two sisters who took over the running of G&B Electronic Designs Ltd from their father in 2015. It was so powerful hearing first hand their passion for manufacturing and learning that they have a 50/50 workforce gender split at G&B.

For me, the key is to do everything we can to break the stereotypical image of industry and encourage more young girls to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers. Many manufacturing facilities nowadays are a far cry from the kind I knew as a child. They are modern workplaces full of technology and incredible innovation places that would have certainly amazed me in my youth.

Another great idea I read in the latest issue of The Manufacturer magazine (due to hit desks imminently) was from Sarah Black-Smith, Head of Factory Operations at Siemens. She said that because parents have such a huge influence over their children, manufacturers should provide tours of their facilities for both children and parents alike to help them better understand just how clean and high tech these places are.

By highlighting that manufacturing is no longer all dirt and grime, and showcasing the amazing women who are doing incredible things in the sector, I believe we can break the bias and move even closer to achieving true gender equality.

How to get involved this IWD

Whether it’s changing your social media profile picture to one of you striking the IWD pose, or simply spreading the key messages, there are a number of ways you can get involved this IWD.

A great place to start is the IWD website and in particular the ‘Get Involved’ submenu. Also be sure to include the #BreakTheBias and #IWD2022 hashtags in any social posts too.

Finally, if you’re a manufacturer, look around your workplace and see how many women there are. Are you actively looking to address the imbalance in industry? I hope so…

Check out Lanna’s articles for some more IWD inspiration: Why women are manufacturing and Shining a light on women in manufacturing

*header image courtesy of Shutterstock