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More top level women needed

But while the sector has made some great strides in female board representation, it is being urged to do more to tackle the industry’s outdated & lsquo;dirty and unglamorous’ image and to nurture talent from classroom to boardroom.

The report – the second annual assessment of the role of women in senior positions in manufacturing – shows that women now account for 21% of directorships in FTSE 100 manufacturing companies. They now hold 64 out of 305 manufacturing board seats – an improvement on last year when they held 59 out of 309 seats and accounted for 19% of board positions.

Over a third (36%) of FTSE 100 manufacturing companies are already at, or even above, the 25% target for female board representation set out within Lord Davies’ Women on Boards Report. Some companies are ahead of the game - GlaxoSmithKline and Unilever both have five female board members each, while Diageo has four, but leads in percentage terms with 44% of board places taken by women.

More importantly, last year’s report identified two manufacturing companies with no female board representation – Croda International and Melrose Industries. Both have since dropped out of the FTSE 100, but now have one female board member each.

The percentage of non-executive (NED) roles going to women has grown from 23% last year to 25% in 2014, while executive (ED) roles remain static at 8%. Just under one in ten female board members (9%) are EDs, compared to one in three (29%) amongst their male peers.

In addition to looking at the state of play amongst FTSE 100 manufacturers, the report also examines some positive examples of female progression amongst SMEs. SMEs employ almost 60% of manufacturing workers, with the majority of UK manufacturing businesses falling into this camp. This suggests that while it is important for women to have a voice in the boardroom, it is just as important to ensure they are reaching senior levels in SMEs too.

The report finds that senior women in SMEs agree with the views of their FTSE female peers, advocating increasing gender diversity through encouragement and development, not enforcement. Rather than quotas, they want to see companies take steps to identify and support talented women, improve the image and perception of manufacturing and do more to engage with schools. 

They also identify how important it is for girls to be taught STEM subjects with passion and to be exposed to inspiring role models, mentors and careers advice. Previous research shows that six in ten manufacturers (60%) believe that better careers advice in schools would encourage more young people into the sector[1].

Terry Scuoler, Chief Executive of EEF, says: “The message from this report is clear - manufacturers are heading in the right direction, but cannot afford to let up. We are matching other industries for female board representation, but there is no room for complacency. If our sector is to continue to thrive we need to be fishing from the entire talent pool and that means ensuring women have the right skills and opportunities and are represented at every level.

“Many of the leading women in manufacturing are equally clear - quotas are not the answer. They advocate evolution, not revolution, with companies continuing and improving their work to identify and nurture talented women and taking bigger strides in showing that a career in our sector is an attractive, exciting and equal opportunity for all. But, this isn’t just about what we as manufacturers can do. The work starts in the classroom where we must see a boost in the number of young women taking STEM subjects and encouraged to raise their career expectations.”

David Atkinson, UK head of manufacturing at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking SME, says: “It is reassuring to see that manufacturers are embracing change and addressing the lack of women within UK boardrooms. However, more needs to be done so that businesses of all sizes also recognise the need to develop the representation of women from the factory floor.

“The growth prospects of manufacturing businesses will depend on their ability to tackle stereotypes. By changing the perceptions of traditional industry, we can encourage a more diverse demographic to consider manufacturing-related careers. It is vital that we help improve the supply of talent to the sector to foster creativity and innovation, particularly if our nation’s & lsquo;makers’ are to remain competitive on the global stage.

“As part of Lloyds Banking Group's Helping Britain Prosper Plan, we've committed to better represent the diversity of our customer base and our communities at all levels, which is why we are aiming to have 40 per cent of senior roles held by women in the Group by 2020."


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