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Empowering Women in Manufacturing: A Crucial Step Towards an Inclusive Future

Empowering Women in Manufacturing: A Crucial Step Towards an Inclusive Future


The manufacturing industry, a cornerstone of the global economy, has long been recognized as a powerhouse of innovation, productivity, and economic growth. Its evolution over the years—from the early days of the Industrial Revolution to today's era of advanced technology and automation—has profoundly impacted the way we live and work. However, as we delve deeper into the 21st century, the sector faces a crucial challenge: embracing and enhancing gender diversity, particularly the involvement of women, who are significantly underrepresented in this field.

Context Setting: The Manufacturing Industry's Global Role

Manufacturing, crucial to the global economy, involves producing consumer goods, machinery, electronics, and automobiles, significantly contributing to a country's GDP and driving innovation, especially in research and development. The sector has evolved through various industrial revolutions, introducing technologies from steam power to AI. Recently, there's been a move towards smart manufacturing, integrating information and production technology for more efficient processes. This evolution brings both opportunities and challenges, including the need for a workforce skilled in technology.

Where does UK Manufacturing sit in the Make UK rankings?

The Importance of Women in Manufacturing

Despite the advancements and transformations in the manufacturing sector, one aspect remains conspicuously unchanged: the gender composition of its workforce. Historically dominated by men, this sector has often been perceived as unsuitable for women, a perception rooted in longstanding stereotypes and cultural norms. However, the importance of integrating women into manufacturing cannot be overstated.

  1. Diversity and Innovation: Diverse teams have been shown to be more innovative and effective in problem-solving. Women bring different perspectives and skills, which are crucial for driving innovation in manufacturing.

  2. Tackling the Skills Shortage: The manufacturing sector is experiencing a skills gap, with an increasing demand for technically skilled workers. Including more women expands the talent pool, helping to fill this gap.

  3. Economic Empowerment: Participation in manufacturing offers women opportunities for economic empowerment and career advancement. In regions where women's employment options are limited, manufacturing can provide a significant livelihood.

  4. Current Status of Women's Participation: Despite these advantages, women's participation in manufacturing remains low. According to various reports, women make up a small percentage of the manufacturing workforce, and the numbers dwindle further when it comes to leadership roles. This underrepresentation is a loss not just for women but for the industry and the economy as a whole.

The Landscape of Women in Manufacturing

Historical Perspective

The history of women in manufacturing has been dynamic, evolving from their significant presence in early factory work, particularly in textiles during the Industrial Revolution, to a transformative role during World War II, exemplified by 'Rosie the Riveter'. Post-war, many women returned to domestic roles, but later 20th-century social changes gradually reopened manufacturing opportunities for them. Despite this progress, women's participation in manufacturing remains low, with recent statistics showing they make up about 29% of the workforce, compared to 47% in the overall workforce. The gap is even wider in leadership roles, with women underrepresented in executive positions. This disparity is more pronounced in high-tech sectors like aerospace and automotive, compared to textiles and apparel. The current scenario underscores the need for more efforts to support women in manufacturing, recognizing that gender diversity can enhance innovation and productivity in the industry.


Challenges Faced by Women in the Manufacturing Sector

  1. Gender Bias and Stereotypes: The perception of manufacturing as a male-dominated field leads to biases in hiring, promotions, and allocation of significant projects. Overcoming these stereotypes requires a cultural shift and fair treatment policies.

  2. Work-Life Balance Challenges: Demanding schedules in manufacturing clash with domestic responsibilities disproportionately shouldered by women, leading to stress and potential career impacts. Flexible working arrangements and childcare support are necessary.

  3. Lack of Female Role Models and Mentorship: Fewer women in leadership roles means fewer role models and mentors, making career progression challenging. Mentorship programs and networking opportunities for women are essential.

  4. Wage Gap and Economic Inequities: Women often earn less than men in manufacturing due to various factors, affecting their financial stability. Addressing this requires transparent pay practices and commitment to equal pay.

  5. Workplace Safety and Harassment: Women may face safety issues and harassment in a predominantly male environment. Ensuring a safe and respectful workplace involves strict policies, training, and supportive reporting environments.

  6. Limited Access to Training and Professional Development: Women often have less access to professional growth opportunities. Inclusive training programs and development paths are crucial for fostering a diverse and skilled workforce.

Manufacturing Software - MRP & ERP Systems | Sage UK

Case Study: SLR Consulting's Approach to Diversity in Recruitment Using DiverseJobsMatter


SLR Consulting, a globally recognized environmental and advisory firm, has taken proactive steps to ensure diversity and inclusion within its workforce. One of their key strategies includes using specialized job boards like DiverseJobsMatter, which focus on attracting a diverse range of candidates. This approach is particularly impactful in the manufacturing sector, where diversity challenges are more pronounced.

SLR Consulting's Commitment to Diversity

  • Organizational Focus: SLR Consulting understands the value of a diverse workforce in driving innovation and reflecting the communities they serve. This commitment is not just about gender diversity but extends to all aspects of diversity, including race, ethnicity, and background.
  • Industry Context: In the manufacturing sector, where diversity has historically been a challenge, SLR's approach serves as a beacon for change and progress.

Utilizing DiverseJobsMatter for Recruitment

  • Platform Choice: By choosing DiverseJobsMatter, SLR Consulting taps into a rich pool of diverse candidates. This platform specializes in connecting employers with underrepresented job seekers, ensuring a wide range of perspectives and experiences.
  • Impact on Recruitment: Using such a platform helps SLR Consulting to overcome unconscious biases that might exist in traditional recruitment processes. It ensures that their job postings reach a broad audience, attracting candidates who might not have otherwise considered a career in environmental consulting or manufacturing.

Success Stories

  • Diverse Hires: Through DiverseJobsMatter, SLR Consulting has successfully recruited women and individuals from varied backgrounds into their manufacturing and environmental consulting teams. These hires have brought fresh perspectives and ideas, contributing significantly to project successes and client satisfaction.
  • Creating an Inclusive Culture: These efforts go beyond just hiring; they are part of a larger initiative to create an inclusive culture where diverse employees can thrive. Success stories include women leading major projects, employees from diverse backgrounds contributing unique insights, and a more collaborative and innovative work environment.

Lessons and Future Directions

  • Broader Industry Impact: SLR Consulting's use of platforms like DiverseJobsMatter sets an example for the entire manufacturing sector. It shows how targeted recruitment strategies can effectively enhance workforce diversity.
  • Ongoing Commitment: SLR Consulting views this as an ongoing journey, continuously striving to improve their diversity and inclusion practices. They remain committed to leveraging platforms like DiverseJobsMatter and exploring new ways to attract and retain diverse talent.

Paula McCarthy - Associate Planning & Development Surveyor - SLR Consulting  | LinkedIn

Strategies for Improvement in the Manufacturing Sector

Policy Recommendations

  • Equal Pay and Promotion Policies: Companies and governments should enforce policies ensuring equal pay for equal work, and fair promotion practices to combat the wage gap and glass ceiling effect.
  • Anti-Discrimination and Harassment Policies: Strict policies against discrimination and harassment must be implemented, along with clear procedures for reporting and addressing such issues.
  • Flexible Working Arrangements: Adopt policies that support flexible work schedules, remote work options, and part-time roles to accommodate work-life balance needs.
  • Government Incentives: Governments can offer incentives to companies that demonstrate a commitment to hiring and promoting women in manufacturing roles.

Support Systems

  • Mentorship Programs: Establish mentorship programs that pair emerging female professionals with experienced leaders, providing guidance, support, and career advancement opportunities.
  • Networking Groups: Encourage and facilitate the formation of networking groups for women in manufacturing to share experiences, advice, and support.
  • Family Support Initiatives: Implement family-friendly policies like on-site childcare, extended parental leave, and support for caregiving responsibilities.

Educational and Training Programs

  • Targeted Education Initiatives: Advocate for and invest in educational programs and scholarships specifically designed for women interested in manufacturing careers.
  • Skill Development and Training: Provide access to training programs that equip women with the necessary skills to excel in manufacturing, especially in areas dominated by technological advancements.
  • Career Pathways in Education: Collaborate with educational institutions to create clear pathways for women to enter manufacturing careers, starting from secondary education to higher education levels.


Throughout this article, we've explored the various facets of women's participation in the manufacturing sector. From historical perspectives and current statistics to the challenges and potential benefits, it's evident that much progress is needed. The underrepresentation of women not only limits their career opportunities but also hinders the growth and innovation potential of the industry.

The importance of continued efforts to support and encourage women in the manufacturing sector cannot be overstated. The implementation of effective policies, support systems, and educational programs is crucial in creating a more inclusive and equitable environment. These efforts will not only benefit women but also enhance the overall productivity and creativity of the manufacturing sector.

As we look towards the future, there is a clear call to action for both the industry and society: to work collaboratively towards a manufacturing sector that values and embraces diversity. By doing so, we can unlock the full potential of this vital sector, driving forward both economic growth and social progress.