Manufacturing Push For Gender Balance

Women make up only 26 per cent of Australia's manufacturing workforce, mainly working in administrative roles and less in core operations and leadership positions (source: Australian Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency). Yet research shows that more gender balanced organisations, with more women in leadership, achieve better financial results, are more innovative, more collaborative and maximise available talent.

Workplaces with more women experience less fraud, less conflict and less staff turnover (Hooper and Genoff 2015).

As the manufacturing industry moves to higher tech advanced manufacturing, a skills gap is emerging and savvy manufacturers are seeking ways to attract, develop and retain more women to increase their competitive advantage.

 "Workplaces with more women experience less fraud, less conflict and less staff turnover."

The Geelong Manufacturing Council Women in Manufacturing Network (GMC-WIMN) aims to increase participation of women in manufacturing and engineering through 4 key themes:

  1. Raising awareness of the benefits of careers in manufacturing and engineering for young women.
  2. Creating a vibrant support network for women working in and considering working in manufacturing and engineering.
  3. Providing career progression information and skills development opportunities.
  4. Encouraging change agents and a community supportive of the GMC-WIMN vision.

Women and men from local manufacturing and engineering companies, education establishments and the wider community gathered at a recent GMC-WIMN panel discussion and networking event to share views on increasing the participation of women in the industry and learn from one another.

The panel guests: Marina Krasic, Advanced Product Marketing Manager - Global Ranger/Everest, Ford Motor Company; Jasmine Leed-Leamer, Plant Manager, Barrett Burston Malting; Michael Thornton, General Manager, Rendine Constructions; and Greg Ure, CEO, Caronlab; were expertly facilitated by one of Australia's freshest thinkers and speakers on gender equality, Amanda Blesing. During the discussion and questions from the audience some key themes emerged:

  • Use data. In the US, unlike Australia, diversity data is routinely collected and used to develop strategies and drive actions to increase participation rates. As they say, if you can't measure it you can't improve it.
  • Workplace flexibility. Make changes to accommodate people and encourage inclusion. Does the 8am meeting have to be at 8am? And encourage men to take the leave and flexible arrangements open to them as well, it makes a real difference to the acceptance of flexible work arrangements.
  • Have confidence. All the panellists encouraged women to have the confidence to accept a challenge and just have a go. This reflected the tendency of women to wait until they meet 100 per cent of a job specification before applying for a new role, whereas men will apply when they hit 60 per cent of the criteria.
  • Speak up. Whilst it takes commitment from the top to drive any change, we can all speak up when we see a woman sidelined or gender based assumptions being made, and organisations need to support this.
  • Words matter. Revisit your recruitment ads, are you inadvertently eliminating potential? Perhaps by specifying more experience than you actually need? And given that most skills can be trained, what are the important characteristics that you are hiring for?

Earnest discussions and networking went on long after the panel had left the stage, with participants making new connections and sharing views.

We're looking forward to our next event in June with Male Champion of Change, Tony Frencham, Regional President - South East Asia at The Dow Chemical Company, but in the meantime I'd love to hear your views and comments on this issue, what are you doing that works to attract, develop and retain women in manufacturing?

Contact Jenny at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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