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Too Long For A 'Slow Burn' on #Women & #Business

Posted on March 17, 2013 at 6:10 PM

I watch with interest as the UK government's focus shifts to the many, many, underlying issues around the lack of 'women on boards' of UK plc.

On the whole, it's a good thing : complex problems demand complex and multi-faceted solutions.

But it is also becoming very apparent that this is a 'slow burn' which means, I'm afraid, that this is all very welcome, but maybe what we need is more immediacy of political will.

Because we don't have time for just 'a slow burn.'

A  report published today by EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, in partnership with Lloyds TSB Commercial Banking and Cranfield School of Management tries first to stress the positive by pointing out that out of the 29 manufacturing firms within the FTSE 100, women account for 19% of board positions, which is slightly higher than the 17% average of the entire FTSE 100. 

With that out of the way (a bit like allowing yourself a drink to a toast just because it's Christmas, even if you've done nothing to deserve it) , it gives us the remaining salient facts.

"With 81% of directorships held by men, just like other sectors (my emphasis)  manufacturers have some way to go in tapping into the full talent pool at levels of their workforce."

"Some way to go" eh ? EEF then considers the dreaded 'quota' option.

It says its analysis suggests that this would not address the underlying issue of the need to increase the pipeline of women with engineering and other skills choosing to work in manufacturing.

"Currently, nine out of ten engineers are male (my emphasis) and, 20% of the manufacturing and engineering workforce is female compared to 49% in other sectors. Furthermore, since 2008 the number of female engineers has gone up just 1% to 6%. This leaves a huge disparity compared to the rest of Europe with 18% in Spain, 20% in Italy and 26% in Sweden."

So, what next ?


EEF and its partners call for a national campaign to increase the pipeline of female engineers

EEF believes this disparity "is due to a number of factors, not least the failure to encourage enough young women to study science related topics which has left half of UK state schools having no women studying A level Physics. To increase the pipeline of female engineers at all levels EEF believes there must be a national campaign to increase the number of women studying STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) topics to professional level, as well as to promote apprenticeships and other vocational routes into work.

Agreed. And in the meantime ?

By the way, I'm horribly conscientious on most things which means I also observe journalist embargos.

But as the EEF report was sent to me on Friday, with a Monday embargo - and then I saw it in The Telegraph spuriously supported by 'Women aren't on boards because they prioritise their partners and children' says Hillary Devey, just one businesswoman good at self-promotion, I'm a bit annoyed.

Maybe the government is just showing its naive side, in thinking releasing these reports via journalists will do the trick. It won't.

Yes, we need more female engineers, technologists and more - and yes, we can start to build the pipeline. And in the meantime.....? Leadership please, more of it.

How about giving plcs incentives to target women - with financial support - to be engineers ? 

Or, I know - how about more immigration from countries with more engineers? Oops.

Categories: Women, Appointments, Training