EEF research shows women are increasing representation in big manufacturing firms

Rise in women on boards of top manufacturing companies is mostly down to non-executive positions, report finds

Liz Mayes
Liz Mayes

Women are increasing their representation at the top of leading manufacturing companies but more needs to be done, according to the sector’s main representative body.

New research from manufacturers’ group EEF published today has found that women now account for 23% of all board seats in FTSE 100 manufacturers, up from 19% in 2013 and 21% last year.

The consecutive increases in the female share of directorships keeps the manufacturing sector in line with the wider FTSE 100 and on track to meet the minimum 25% female board representation recommended by Lord Davies in his 2011 Women on Boards report.

But the increase in the number of directorships has been achieved mostly by an increase in non-executive roles, with female executive roles remaining stuck at 8%, suggesting less important board roles are being given to fill women to meet targets.

There were also concerns that only 7% of those starting apprenticeships in engineering and manufacturing

Liz Mayes, North East regional director at EEF, said: “Every single FTSE 100 manufacturer has at least one woman on their board. More importantly, most of those yet to reach 25% female board representation are a hair’s breadth away. Britain’s leading manufacturers are stepping up to meet Lord Davies’ challenge but, there is still some way to go.

“Simply meeting the target is not enough. The imbalance in our sector between the number of women in executive and non-executive roles is a symptom of a wider challenge. It tells us that we are failing to tap into the entire talent pool and must strive to not only build and maintain a satisfactory pipeline of talent, but also address the worryingly low number of women within it.

“Until we attract more female apprentices, graduates and other new entrants we will continue to see women under-represented at all levels in manufacturing, including the boardroom. Failing to tap into this rich resource is a wasted opportunity given our sector’s pressing and long-term need for skills.”

EEF’s Women in Manufacturing report reveals that 28% of FTSE manufacturing companies are above the Government target of having at least a quarter of board members being women.

Diageo is leading the way with five of its 11-strong board being female, followed by GlaxoSmithKline and Unilver. In total, women hold 64 out of 279 directorships in FTSE 100 manufacturers and all 25 companies have at least one woman on their board.

But the lack of female apprentices in the sector means there will not be a “short term fix” to the under-presentation of women, EEF says.

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