Women in Manufacturing: Bridging the Skills Gap


The term ‘manufacturing’ is often misperceived. It may paint an image of heavy-duty workmen, oily machines, and dangerous work environments. Although still male-orientated, this image has otherwise become obsolete. The manufacturing industry has become increasingly high-tech, safe, clean, and offers a wealth of career opportunities.

A demographic increasingly taking advantage of these opportunities is women. A much higher percentage of women are entering the manufacturing field, covering roles from the shopfloor and production to finance and design. However, there is still room for improvement. Although women represent almost half of the workforce in the UK, they account for only 26% of all workers in the manufacturing sector. As a manufacturer, Astley is passionate about helping to increase these numbers and tackle any industry misconceptions.

The current problem being faced by the manufacturing industry is the skills gap, with a lack of skilled workers available to fill technical roles. This is due to several reasons, including a decrease in apprenticeship starts (down 4.1% from 2022-23, versus the previous year), the ageing workforce, as well as continual technological changes calling for specialised skillsets. One way to tackle this problem is to encourage more women into manufacturing, and consequently bring an array of unique strengths and skills into the sector. Studies show that manufacturers can close the skills gap by 50% by bringing in 10% more women into the industry. This would address not only the skills gap but also the gender gap that is prevalent within the industry.



She says:

“Traditionally women might not look into the manufacturing industry, but they would be pleasantly surprised at how interesting it is. When you look at what signage actually is, and what does go through the factory, it can be a very attractive industry for women. . . If you are a woman coming in and you’re super organised, it’s a brilliant industry to be in – all of manufacturing is brilliant, we just need to push the idea of [women being in the industry]”.

As Ruth indicates, manufacturing has been given a less-than-glamorous image. However, the recent growth of automation within the industry has opened an array of opportunities within the sector. From designers and operators to marketing, quality assurance, and logistics, there is a wealth of career paths to choose from and even interchange.

Women portray the largest pool of untapped talent for manufacturing. The need for women isn’t solely for numbers or to fill gaps – women consistently provide levels of creativity, empathy, organisation, an eye for detail, and the capacity for leadership. And now these skills can be applied to a variety of different areas.

Building awareness of the opportunities available to women within this sector is paramount in attracting diverse personnel. Diversity fosters creativity, introducing a wider lens of strategic thinking and an influx of innovative ideas.

“Because it is male-dominated, women might find a few challenges because they just don’t know where they would fit in. I don’t think they particularly see gender, what matters is whether you are good at your job. If you want something that is challenging, there are no barriers for entering manufacturing . . . [you] are welcome to open arms”.

Today, women have the potential to fit into a variety of roles. Modern manufacturing careers focus on more than just strength - they call for dexterity, innovation, and critical thinking. No longer is there a gender bias – the sole ambition is to be surrounded by the strongest and best team, regardless of gender. As long as you are passionate, success will follow.

Although the numbers are continuously improving, there is still a way to go in terms of closing the gap. It is clear that by increasing the percentage of female talent, there is an opportunity to promote both inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

Linda, the HR Manager at Astley, says:

"To continue enabling this growth, it is imperative that companies forge ahead with schemes to promote the onboarding of women. Fostering an inclusive culture, endorsing apprenticeships, and leading by example with women representatives, are all crucial to long-term success. Here at Astley, we are so proud to have some amazing women in our workforce and are always looking to further expand our female talent."

Manufacturing has a fantastic future – by identifying and tackling the misconceptions that the industry faces, we can begin to truly work toward closing the skills gap and unleash the full potential of female workforces in manufacturing. Women should be seated at the table, not just because they are women, but because they are good at what they do.

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