Semta applauds ‘Women in Work’ but warns of inhibiting female talent

Posted on 9 Mar 2012 by The Manufacturer

Coinciding with international Women’s day, sector skills council Semta yesterday hosted a reception at the House of Lords to profile female success stories from manufacturing Women in Work schemes.

Baroness Wall of New Barnett and Baroness Prosser of Battersea were guests of honour at the event having been formative in the establishment of the Women in Work career development programme, started in 2004 during the Blair Government.

Baroness Prosser spoke of her pride in the far reaching achievements of the programme which has now reached out to 40,000 women in 5000 companies across the UK. She warned however, that she was disappointed in the current government’s decision to bring an end to segregated funding for female professional development.

Yesterday’s Semta event gave a platform to Airbus, Atkins, BAE Systems and Jaguar Land Rover to describe general and personal success stories following engagement with the Women in Work programme which is regulated by Semta in manufacturing firms.

Meg Farnworth, senior supply chain manager at BAE Systems, said that the Women in Work initiative had made a “significant difference to the speed and effectiveness” of the way in which 92 women [in the company] had developed their careers.

Speaking of recent progress in advancing women into particular strongholds of male uniformity Ms Farnworth referenced the recent appointment of the first female welding apprentice  since the 1980s.

Explaining possible resistance to establishing a Women in Work programme in any workplace, Jacqueline Russell of  Airbus acknowledged that it can be difficult to justify “What is different for women that they can’t get from Airbus training.”

Speakers and team memebrs from Semta at Westminster on International Women's Day

She admitted that this had been a blocker for her in acknowledgement of  blockers to career development – such as a lack of confidence in putting herself forward and issues of guilt when she embarked on motherhood.

Ms Russell explained how the Women in Work Programme helped her to identify a network of female role models.

Caroline Brown, now international business head (Nuclear) at Atkins, told a similar story and concluded that: “The Women in Work workshops helped me to realise that my differences are my strengths and to voice, without emotion or apology” her needs in the workplace including flexible working conditions.

In her presentation on the behalf of Jaguar Land Rover, Sarah Herd detailed the many approaches to mentoring and recruitment supported by the automotive manufacturer to encourage more women both to enter the industry and to progress.

Yesterday she announced a the launch  of a new UK Girl Guides, Engineering Challenge Badge, which has been developed in partnership with JLR.

Representative from EEF and Cranfield University were also present at the event and took the opportunity to highlight the upcoming release of new research into the number of women on FTSE 100 manufacturing boards.

The award of one of the first certificates for the recently launched Level 3 qualification in Career Advancement and Progression was also made at the Semta event. Semta Chairman Allan Cook presented the award to Caroline Brown.

The Career Advancement and Progression qualification was developed for Semta by engineering awarding body, EAL whose managing director Ann Watson was also present at the event. Ms Watson highlighted that despite progress in attracting more women into manufacturing careers, stil only 9% of its total awards annually go to women.