Women in manufacturing: Do we need a new approach?

Posted on 6 Nov 2023 by The Manufacturer
Partner Content

Eleanor Baker, Inclusive Business Manager, Lloyds Bank considers the number of women in manufacturing and how we can strengthen our support for girls and women in the sector.

Manufacturing is a man’s world, right? Looking at the data, you’d be forgiven for thinking so; the proportion of women in manufacturing has sat at around just one in four of the sector’s workforce for the last 20 years.

That’s manufacturing’s loss, because women have an important contribution to make. We all know that manufacturing firms, like many other sectors, are facing a shortage of skills, so it’s a missed opportunity not to recruit from as wide a talent pool as possible.

I know that this industry is full of good intentions and there have been some exciting initiatives in recent years, so it’s disappointing this hasn’t yet translated into much in the way of progress, with a greater representation of women in the sector.

Our ambition now is to significantly strengthen our support for girls and women in manufacturing. However, what is the best way of achieving our aim? I’ve been speaking to some of the industry’s most successful and influential women leaders and allies to inform our strategy.

A problem shared…

That’s an ongoing process, but it’s not just up to women to create change, we need men to step up and be our allies too, because collaboration across the industry will be key to achieving gender equality.

Lloyds Bank has already built effective partnerships with organisations including Make UK, and we’re proud of our long-standing £15m sponsorship of the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry, but we want to build more alliances.

I think there’s a real opportunity to link larger firms to leverage the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer scheme, whereby they can choose to transfer up to 25% of their unused levy funds each year to support other businesses, to pay for their apprenticeship training.

That could help smaller manufacturers in their supply chains to make their apprenticeships, talent attraction and retention more diverse and cost effective. However, there’s also a need to help those women who are already in manufacturing to achieve their full potential.

Building knowledge and skills is fundamental to this, and I’ve heard women tell me it can be hard to access advice and information on topics such as access to finance, international trade, sustainability, innovation and technology, leadership and succession planning. In future, we’ll be looking at how we can curate a series of masterclasses on these important business areas to provide new routes to this information and support.

Because women need to see that, not only is there a place for them in manufacturing, but that they can progress their careers and achieve the highest levels of success.

In it together

At the moment, while women are underrepresented across manufacturing, it’s even more unusual to find them in the most senior positions.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet some seriously impressive and high-achieving women in this sector, and I believe there’s an opportunity to leverage Lloyds Bank’s network of contacts to deliver bespoke mentoring sessions to support women-led SMEs as they work to take their businesses to the next level.

Their success will only inspire the next generation of women, providing the visibility, role models and representation that is so badly needed to overcome outdated perceptions of the industry.

After all, we need more young women and girls to choose to study the kind of STEM subjects that can start them off on their manufacturing and engineering journey.

We want to provide a platform for women in the sector to share their inspirational stories and advice at events like the MACH Exhibition and the National Manufacturing Summit, as well as through articles like this one.

For example, we recently profiled on our website Janis Sinton, Founder of flavourings and ingredients firm, TasteTech, who was named one of The LDC Top 50 Most Ambitious Business Leaders for 2022. Showcasing inspirational women like Janis who are shaping the sector, will be key to encouraging the next generation of women to consider a career in manufacturing.

And there’s an opportunity to enhance this activity by hosting regional and national networking opportunities to further build a network of women and allies in the industry.

This will also be vital for providing us with the information we need to help us target our resources and activity in the areas it is needed the most.

However, we can’t do it alone. We want to hear from anyone who shares our vision for a more equitable industry to ensure that we’re reaching as many women as possible through our outreach.

Ultimately, we want to encourage more girls and women into the sector and support more women-led businesses to scale.

We know that change won’t happen overnight, but I also know that women have the passion and potential to make a positive difference in manufacturing and that is a prize worth fighting for.

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Lloyds Bank plc. Authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority under Registration Number 119278.

About the author

Eleanor Baker, Inclusive Business Manager, Lloyds Bank

Eleanor Baker, Inclusive Business Manager, Lloyds Bank

Eleanor Baker is an Inclusive Business Manager at Lloyds Bank with 11 years of banking experience. Get in touch with Eleanor by email.