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Women in manufacturing: the changing landscape

Gender disparity within the manufacturing industry has persisted globally for years. However, with advancements such as the automation of manual, laborious tasks, evolving manufacturing processes and increased awareness, there is a tangible shift. 

Today, there is a notable increase in female representation in the manufacturing sector across every level. Women are breaking traditional norms, getting involved on the shop floor, engaged in manufacturing processes, driving innovation in research and development and occupying leadership, management, and shop floor roles.

However, there is a significant gap in gender disparity that needs to be addressed and reduced. 

Consider the following statistics:

  • Only 30% of the EU manufacturing workforce is women
  • In the UK, women in manufacturing accounted to 26% in 2022 
  • Only 9% of CEOs are women across all industries
  • Women workers in manufacturing in India accounted for 19.7% 

The need for gender diversity in manufacturing

Apart from creating inclusive workplaces and industries, women bring unique skill sets and capabilities that impressively add to manufacturing businesses. Here are some reasons why gender diversity in the manufacturing sector is essential.

  • Innovation: Studies indicate that diverse teams excel in innovation and problem-solving (McKinsey & Company). Women enrich the idea pool, fostering creativity and effective solutions with their unique perspectives and approaches.
  • Financial growth: Research indicates that companies committed to diversity tend to outperform their less diverse counterparts financially. 
  • Employee satisfaction: An inclusive workplace cultivates a sense of belonging and fulfilment among all employees, leading to higher retention rates. When employees feel valued and respected for their differences, overall satisfaction and loyalty improve.

Initiating a gender diversity transformation in manufacturing

Manufacturing companies and the industry as a whole need to take  proper steps to involve women in the manufacturing sector. Here’s how companies and the industry can bring this transformation:

  • Promote gender diversity in manufacturing companies and industry
  • Promote manufacturing as a contemporary and fulfilling career for women
  • Create training facilities for women across functions – administration, management, shop floor, R&D, and design, among others
  • Ensure a non-biased recruitment and selection processes
  • Create supportive work environments and policies for women
  • Incorporate manufacturing technology on shop floors to make women’s work less labor intensive 
  • Fill rare skill gaps in manufacturing by employing women
  • Promote women in leadership roles
  • Support work-life balance for women with the right policies
  • Recognize and celebrate women workers in manufacturing
  • Understand and provide infrastructure suitable for women

Women at BFW 

BFW is one of the few gender-inclusive manufacturing companies that promotes women employees. As Ravi Raghavan, Managing Director of BFW says, “We are committed to employing 30% women engineers. Our manufacturing facilities are equipped to support women, from training to technology and automation to policies.”

Women bring a fresh skill set, analytical expertise, and a forward-looking perspective to the table. Moreover, BFW recognizes the unique skills women bring to various aspects of manufacturing, including leadership, management, R&D, and factory functions.

At BFW, there’s a palpable sense of empowerment among women, from BFW’s Director, Mrs. P. D. Kothari, to the many women making machines on the shop floors. When Mrs. Kothari assumed the role of Director, BFW, there were scant women in the manufacturing industry, and fewer or none in leadership roles. Mrs. Kothari has made immense contributions to the manufacturing sector through various roles at many companies.

From leadership roles to shop floor tasks, the company follows a culture of strengthening the role of women employees, enabling women to thrive and lead in manufacturing.

BFW has made conscious decisions to foster diversity and encourage women participation in the manufacturing sector. Although much progress needs to be made, some of the women employees have made their mark. One such is Navyashri  N V. , Assistant Manager of R&D who was recently recognised and featured for her incredible journey into manufacturing.

But how easy or difficult was it to bring this diversity shift within BFW? The organization made a conscious decision to foster diversity. When BFW decided to employ 30% of its women on its shop floor, there were few women in manufacturing and even fewer on the shop floor.

To facilitate the work for the less experienced women, BFW’s “Growth Engine” project aimed to crunch a 30-hour manufacturing process to 45 minutes to enable a 3x production. The company’s technology played a critical role in achieving this goal. As the women on the shop floor gained higher competency, technology reduced their mundane tasks, allowing them to focus on value creation.

Given that 30% of the workforce would have limited experience, the company’s technology was going to play a critical role in facilitating work for the less experienced women. And as they would reach higher competency, technology would reduce their mundane tasks, allowing them to focus on value creation.

At BFW, women on the shop floor are empowered and made to believe that there is nothing they cannot do. The company provides them with technology and training whenever they need future empowerment. 

Today, women at BFW shop floors perform the complex task of machine geometry, a rare skill among women worldwide. Every machine manufactured in BFW facilities passes through the hands of at least a few women workers.

Summing up

Increasing the number of women in the manufacturing sector can benefit both the industry and manufacturing companies. There is a growing number of women pursuing engineering as a career and seeking fulfilling roles. BFW’s gender diversity initiatives have proved successful in achieving this goal.

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