In an industry traditionally dominated by men, Victoria Brocklesby, COO and Co-Founder of Origin, the UK’s premier manufacturer of aluminium doors and windows, is a beacon of change and inclusivity. With over two decades under her belt, Brocklesby has been pivotal in transforming the landscape of manufacturing to embrace and empower women.
The Challenge of Gender Disparity in Manufacturing: When Brocklesby co-founded Origin in 2002, the manufacturing sector was witnessing its lowest rate of female employment. A steep decline from the 1970s, where women constituted 29% of the manufacturing workforce, the number had dwindled to a mere 12% by 1992. Today, despite women representing nearly half of the UK’s labor force, they account for only 26% in manufacturing. This gap underscores a persistent challenge in diversifying the sector.
Origin's Approach to Breaking Barriers: Origin’s journey began with a foundational commitment to cultivating a company culture that values contributions over gender. This ethos has been critical in dismantling traditional stereotypes and opening doors for women in manufacturing. By implementing a zero-tolerance policy towards discrimination and emphasizing shared values, Origin has successfully integrated women into traditionally male-dominated roles.
Visible Change and Leading by Example: Visibility plays a crucial role in challenging stereotypes. Brocklesby emphasizes the importance of women in prominent roles, particularly in senior leadership, to inspire and open avenues for others. At Origin, women hold significant positions across all departments, including the Operational Board of Directors, demonstrating that gender does not define capability or leadership.
Advice to Other Employers: Brocklesby advises other manufacturing firms to prioritize company culture and align it with core values. Emphasizing that while skills are teachable, a nurturing and inclusive culture is foundational. She underscores that a company's attitude towards its employees significantly impacts its ability to attract and retain diverse talent.
Encouraging Women in Manufacturing: Beyond hiring practices, Brocklesby suggests that manufacturing companies should also focus on encouraging women to pursue education and careers in manufacturing and related fields, such as engineering, where female representation is still low.
The Road Ahead: Brocklesby remains optimistic about the future, envisioning an industry that not only closes the gender gap but also becomes a welcoming space for other minorities. She believes that creating an inclusive work culture is key to achieving this goal.
Conclusion: Victoria Brocklesby’s efforts at Origin represent a significant stride towards inclusivity in manufacturing. Her dedication serves as an inspiration and a blueprint for other companies to follow, proving that with the right approach, industries can evolve to become more diverse and equitable.