Can women make a difference in manufacturing?

ES Apr15 Pg04 VftT G&B 1 CutoutAbsolutely says Laura McBrown of G&B Electronic Designs. Technology can change people’s lives; women just need to understand this to get stuck in and make a difference.

I am genuinely concerned that women will not be attracted into manufacturing and onto our boards of directors unless we challenge popular beliefs and breakdown the stereotypes held by society. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in fair and merit-based selection, but, in my experience, a more diverse group offers a broader range of ideas and achieves a more successful result. We are all responsible for nurturing the engineering talent pool, but how are we going to get the results we need?

We’ve made progress; the EEF’s third report on Women in Manufacturing shows an increase from 19 to 23 per cent regarding female representation on the boards of FTSE 100 manufacturing companies since 2013. Sadly the number of women holding executive board positions has remained largely unchanged at around eight per cent.

Back in the early noughties, on my first day studying electronic engineering, I was surprised to be the only girl on my course. Today, despite initiatives such as the ‘Your Life’ campaign, which aims to double the proportion of women taking undergraduate engineering and technology degrees, we are still struggling to attract women into these careers – but why is this such a difficult task?

A caring profession

I believe we have missed a glaringly obvious point, something so fundamental to women that unless we address it, numbers are not going to increase to the levels we need. Women’s values tend to include caring for others, quality of life and the importance of relationships. Many women are drawn to careers in nursing, beauty and human resources that resonate with those feminine values to take care of, and do something for, others. If we want to attract more women into engineering, we need to demonstrate the feminine traits of our industry. In fact, that is why I am in engineering.

My motivation to run an electronics company is one of my best friends, Sandra. Sandra fought hereditary breast cancer like a true warrior. She watched her mum and grandmother pass away from the disease and she was determined to beat it for her two beautiful daughters, aged three and five. Sadly, Sandra lost her battle and we are all afraid for her two girls. Sandra was unable to have a breast scan because the breast tissue of young women is too dense.

I run an electronics company that specialises in taking medical devices to market and have been approached by a company developing the technology to offer breast scans to young women. We have the skills to help and if we do there is a good chance that Sandra’s two girls will not suffer the same fate as their mother. We have the opportunity to make a difference and because we can, I shall do everything in my power to make sure that we do.

Contribute to technology

You only have to look at the race for life campaign to see how many women want to make a difference. Perhaps some of those women could take it further and contribute something to the technology.

Engineering needs more women; their contribution is immensely valuable. They need to step up and we as an industry have a responsibility to get out there and explain why. Maybe then we will see the results we are looking for.