Improving gender balance in manufacturing


Good article. But I think addressing the gender imbalance needs to start even earlier. We treat boys and girls so differently from birth, then expect them to grow up to have the same interests and ...

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Getting an even gender split in manufacturing won't happen overnight, and it won't be easy

It’s no secret that manufacturing is suffering from skills shortages across Europe, and one of the biggest concerns is the low number of women. In the UK, women make up just 30% of food and drink manufacturing, and only 7% of engineering professionals.

At Coca-Cola Enterprises we want to confront these figures rather than cross our fingers and hope for change. It’s not just about acting as a responsible business – we believe there is a clear competitive advantage to be gained from having a truly diverse workforce.

A gender-balanced workforce means diversity of ideas, thinking and experience, which leads to enhanced ways of working and, ultimately, better decision-making. Organisations that reflect the world around them are far better placed to not only understand the needs of customers and consumers, but also to recruit and retain employees.

We know that 70% of the decisions to buy our products are made by women. At the same time, 60% of university graduates are female – and they bring a new set of skills and leadership styles. That’s why we aspire to have a minimum of 40% women in both management and leadership grades by 2025.

So, we need to knock down negative perceptions young women often hold about the sector. Recent campaigns such as #ILookLikeAnEngineer are brilliant.

Giving more young people firsthand insight into the manufacturing process is another easy thing that companies can do. We’ve invested $11 million in our education programme across Europe since 2011, and we reached 130,000 young people in 2014 alone. The programme includes eight Education Centres at our major facilities, taking students behind the scenes. In doing so we aim to boost their knowledge of modern manufacturing and help them develop the soft skills that are so important for their employability. In several territories we’ve set specific targets for girls – in the UK, for example, we’ve committed to doubling the number of girls we welcomed to our factories last year.

We set up community initiatives that support women in manufacturing – for example, providing mentors for the Brunel University mentorship scheme for female engineering students in the UK, and financing a study in Sweden into what drives female employees. And we work with partners to support programmes aimed at improving youth employment and promoting interest in science, tech, engineering and mathematics careers.

It’s also important for businesses to closely monitor the way they recruit. That is why we launched our new recruitment marketing campaign – ‘My Time Is Now’ – designed to encourage women to think differently about their careers. We have reworded our job advertisements to ensure they are attractive to both male and female candidates, and we’ve built female talent pipelines in areas where we find it difficult to attract women.

To ensure all these things actually make a noticeable difference we’ve set clear goals and monitored our progress. In the UK, 60% of graduates and 30% of apprentices recruited into our manufacturing and engineering teams were women. Across our territories, 57% of our supply chain graduates in 2015 were female.

Getting an even gender split in manufacturing won’t happen overnight, and it won’t be easy, but this is even more reason for businesses to get involved. Because, ultimately, a balanced environment – and an influx of new skills and talent – are worth fighting for.

Ron Lewis is senior vice president, supply chain at Coca-Cola Enterprises


Good article. But I think addressing the gender imbalance needs to start even earlier. We treat boys and girls so differently from birth, then expect them to grow up to have the same interests and aspirations. Lets stop dividing toys up by gender and train teachers not to enforce stereotypes and we might see some changes.

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