Diversity in the Workplace: Gender

Diversity in the Workplace: Gender

1 June 2017

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Last week, our Managing Director attended The Diversity Conference Scotland in Glasgow city centre. With an interesting range of speakers, all aspects of inclusion, equality and diversity were on the table for discussion.

Alternating between speakers and panels, it was a day in which everyone was welcome and everyone had a voice.

The Manufacturing and Engineering industries in Scotland have a particular issue with gender diversity. Traditionally, they are not sectors of work that attract (or retain) women. Diversity is not something we should consign to legislation or quotas – it is something we should all actually strive to implement. This is the only way to foster a fair and thriving workplace.

These industries will never be able to achieve their full potential if they do not look to all sectors of society for their talent pool. It’s not that Manufacturing or Engineering actively excludes women, it’s just that they have done nothing in particular to attract them. (Some businesses have only recently invested in female toilets!)

Studies have shown that more diverse workplaces tend to be more productive and successful businesses. Perhaps this is because the inclusive hiring process best reflects a company’s consumer base. Yet, in the construction industry, women make up just 17% of the workforce.

I have written before about the Scottish government’s STEM agenda to rid school subjects of gender discrimination and to attract young women in to university courses or apprenticeships that will serve the Manufacturing and Engineering industries. From the classroom to the world of work, your talent pipeline starts when you capture the mind of a young female student. We are literally having to un-do decades of bias and stereotypes – no easy task.

With regards to apprenticeships, whilst there is a 50% uptake of female candidates, these are typically for fields such as social care or hairdressing, which will ultimately experience lower pay than M&E roles.

The Equal Pay Act was passed in the 1970s and many women are still chasing equality. Across Scotland, the gender employment gap stands at 6.8% whilst the gender pay gap is 6.2%. For many businesses, a key way to attract and welcome female employees would be to offer flexible working or childcare initiatives. The female employment rate in Scotland stands at just 69% - and a large factor in this is insufficient access to childcare.  

Businesses need to lead from the top and ask not just what they are for but who they are for. We need to be confident in female candidates and provide strong role models for the next generation of workers. If this lack of visibility continues, the problem will only get worse.

We need to implement holistic change – and that starts with our attitudes, not just the legislation. Think about it this way: What is it like to be a female employee in your business? Is it a fair, safe and nurturing environment? Create a place of work where every member of staff, no matter what their background, feels like they are making a valuable contribution.

We are living in an era of change. No industries should know this better than Manufacturing and Engineering. Competitiveness, innovation and internationalisation all stem from diversity.

The difference between those who succeed and those who fail will be those businesses who respond innovatively to this change and welcome a fairer workplace for all.

Written By Michelle McLaughlin


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