Advanced 365 Limited

02/21/2024 | News release | Distributed by Public on 02/21/2024 06:33

International Women's Day: Inspire inclusion

International Women's Dayfalls this week, with the campaign theme 'inspire inclusion'. For the manufacturing sector, where women representonly 26 per cent of the workforce despite making up half of UK labour, inspiring women to feel included should be a key priority of any business looking to evolve, attract the best talent and thrive in the future. Not only is prioritising gender inclusion morally worthwhile, but diversity has proven business benefits, with gender diverse companies 15 per cent more likely to outperform.

While diversity refers to the quantitative makeup of the workplace according to categories like gender, ethnicity and age, inclusion covers whether all these workers feel a sense of belonging, in environments where certain groups have traditionally been a minority. Without an inclusion strategy underpinning it, diversity measures can only get so far. Inclusion ensures that demographics enjoying new prominence in manufacturing stay and bring more of their peers. Manufacturing leaders should look towards how they can not only employ more women but support them in their careers and foster a welcoming environment for everyone.

Get to know your business

Women in the manufacturing workplace face a myriad of challenges, from a misogynistic culture to difficulty achieving promotion, unrecognised health conditions to poor-fitting protective gear. However, not all companies will have the same issues. Any inclusion strategy must start with audits, assessing both the metrics - how many women are in different company functions, what are the statistics around progression, what is the gender balance of the C-suite - and qualitative information. Surveys and one-on-one interviews can be used to establish how included women feel and how the situation could be improved. Pump manufacturer Grundfos, for example, conducted a thorough assessment process to define a series of company-specific action areas, including reversing high-levels of attrition in early-career female employees and promoting more women. Rather than applying a scattergun approach to inclusion tactics, ground strategy in the experiences of your team.

Review and re-educate

Leaders must consider the way the manufacturing industry has been shaped by hundreds of years of male dominance. Safe work practices, tooling, machinery, amenities and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are all likely to be tailored towards male bodies. Company culture, too, is likely to be swayed towards male workers, with 68 per cent of women citing a non-inclusive culture and conscious and unconsciousbiasas preventing a rewarding career in manufacturing. Diversity and inclusion training and awareness-raising campaigns can address a negative workplace atmosphere, with prejudice often hard-baked to such a degree that individual workers may not understand the damage they cause. Diversity education can take many forms, including bringing it into the interview process and onboarding, and conducting top-up sessions for leadership teams, ensuring executives become champions of the company values.

More than a buzzword

A company inclusion framework should be developed and circulated, but it is also important that leaders integrate these ideals into their practice in a real, impactful way. With research suggesting that it will take until 2085 for women to be paid equally in the sector, a brave step for manufacturers would be publishing their gender pay gap - proving that the business is not afraid of admitting its own flaws, in order to address them. Policies around leave and flexible working are also likely to have been devised without women in mind. Your company can make it clear that inclusivity is more than just a buzzword, by evaluating parental leave policies and flexible working options for those with dependents. Follow the example of manufacturers Mars, where parental leave was boostedto 26 weeks at 90 per cent of salary- a massive increase from the statutory six weeks at 90 per cent of pay. Enshrine inclusivity in company culture, and then live this out in policy, publicity and the day-to-day operations of your business.

As International Women's Day approaches, it is not just a time for celebration; it's a call to action for the sector. By embracing the opportunity to reevaluate and realign, manufacturing leaders can cultivate a more vibrant, innovative, and attractive workplace for women to excel in. Those businesses that are most welcoming will reap the benefits of a more diverse workplace and be far more equipped to face the skills crisis. Inspiring inclusion is not only the right thing to do, but a smart strategic decision - with the pointers in this blog a jumping off point for facing the manufacturing industry's gender imbalance head on.