Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Women in Manufacturing House of Commons Tuesday 21st January

“Smashing the Glass Ceiling”
Science,Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – the so called STEM disciplines – are key to the UK’s engineering and manufacturing capability and schools are under increasing pressure from government to facilitate and support their delivery within the curriculum, encouraging pupils into these important and challenging subjects.
Women in Manufacturing is an organisation that seeks particularly to attract and retain women to this key sector of the economy, encouraging diversity and increasing the UK talent pool by raising the number of women in industry at all levels.  It does this by urging both educators and employers to forge partnerships to mutual benefit.
As things stand fewer than 10% of STEM qualified managers are female.  Women complete only 1% of apprenticeships in construction, planning and the environment, 4% in manufacturing, 18% in ICT.    Indeed only 27.3% of manufacturing workers are female, the same level as in 1972.  Clearly there is a lot of work to do in redressing this imbalance.
With my long standing interest in promoting diversity Women in Manufacturing is therefore a topic close to my heart.  The organisation was formed by the Glass Academy working with the Worshipful Company of Glass Sellers.  The aim is to attract a broader mix of skills, experience, views and ideas to the UK manufacturing sector to help address the impending UK manufacturing skills shortage and significant gender imbalance in the sector.
The Aim:
  • Inspiring more girls and young women to take up careers in manufacturing and engineering
  • Raising awareness of the numerous well paid, exciting and fulfilling career opportunities in the sector
  • Contributing to a cultural shift through education to eliminate gender stereotyping from the industry.
The well attended reception held in the Churchill Room within the House of Commons was to raise the profile of this new and worthy initiative and was full of faces known to me.  In many ways the need to engage with Industry, Government and Education was familiar ground for me from my years running the Industry and Parliament Trust – educating MPs and Peers about the continuing importance of maintaining a manufacturing industry back at a time when the City appeared far more seductive to most in achieving economic growth.
It was good to meet again with Alderman Andrew Parmley, now Master of the Glass Sellers, and as a Musician a driving force behind the City Livery concerts, now firmly re-established.  I was also delighted to also meet with a very dear friend and one-time neighbour Tony Thatcher, a member of the Glass Sellers and former Vice Chairman of Thyssen-Bornemisza.  Tony came to my Installation a year ago.
I do hope this initiative gathers momentum.  Manufacturing today is no longer the heavy work of yesteryear but more usually embraces innovation, precision,delicacy and design – all gifts possessed by the female half of the population.  My sense is that girl schools are still succeeding rather better at bringing girls into STEM subjects and this new organisation gives me ideas of where I might well decide to apply my business experience in coming months and years.

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