Jaguar smashes glass ceiling

Posted on 13 Jul 2010 by The Manufacturer

Fighting against manufacturing stereotypes Jaguar Land Rover is working to redress gender imbalance in the automotive industry.

The manufacturing industry as a whole is dominated by an aging workforce of white males and the automotive sector is perhaps one of the most traditionally represented in this way. However, in order to buck this trend, automotive manufacturers Jaguar Land Rover have teamed up with Sector Skills Council Semta, to try and smooth the career path for women in industry.

The initiative being used to support the professional development of women in manufacturing is Semta’s Women and Work programme which has now been active for three years and has helped numerous companies of various sizes promote a greater presence from women in senior roles. Some of the most successful Semta partners have been: Airbus, Rolls Royce, Novartis, Houlder Marine and Jaguar Land Rover.

Initially, the luxury carmaker put forward 42 female managers to take part in Semta’s Women and Work initiative but it has now doubled its commitment to the programme after seeing a range of benefits appear in the business. These benefits have included improved networking, public speaking, mentoring.

Across the manufacturing industry it is now a well accepted fact that despite efforts to attract a more diverse intake of young workers into manufacturing this has not yet translated into greater gender balance in senior roles. The challenge still inherent in breaking the glass ceiling for women in male dominated workplaces has recently been readdressed by the 2010 Equality Act but the issue is of long standing and will not be resolved quickly. In March this year Margaret Wood, MD of specialist glazing company ICW UK said that in a meeting at The Advanced Metal Engineering Centre “There must have been fifty men and only three women. All of us were senior figures in our companies and the men were asking serious questions about how to encourage more young women into the industry.”

Tim Davis, Director, Quality & Automotive Safety Office, Jaguar Land Rover, is another example of male advocacy of female advancement in manufacturing. “We recognise there is talent within the business and we want to equip our female leaders with the right skills to promote themselves within an engineering environment. It’s about fulfilling potential. The Women and Work programme has given individuals the confidence to ask the right questions and to think about what they want from their careers. It’s not just about promotion, it’s about enabling women to see what success looks like for them, as an individual.”

Given strategic goals to increase UK manufacturing productivity (particularly in advanced manufacturing and green technology) the industry will have to increase and broaden its recruitment efforts if it is to provide an appropriately skilled workforce to support growth. It is estimated that 200,000 new recruits will be needed to replace knowledge rich retiring employees between 2010 and 2016.

Philip Whiteman, Chief Executive of Semta comments “Women will play an increasingly important role in filling the skills gaps. The Women and Work programme will equip them with the skills they need to progress their own careers and contribute to keeping companies like Jaguar Land Rover at the forefront of world manufacturing.”

However, upskilling and streamlining the progression of female employees already within manufacturing companies may not be enough. Disturbingly for the security and competitive capability of UK manufacturing new statistics show that women remain hugely underrepresented on engineering course at UK universities (only 14%) and a spokesperson for Cogent, Sector Skills Council for science based industries revealed to TM that “The employers we work with are still far more concerned with the core skill competencies coming out of university degrees than with the demographic at the moment. There is a key issue to be resolved around the quality and applicability of the knowledge learnt on these courses as well as a challenge around being more conscious of gender balance.”