A leading North East businesswoman has taken a central role in a new report from EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation.
Jacqui Miller, global sales and marketing director at Cramlington’s Miller UK, was selected to feature in Women in Manufacturing as an inspiring example of someone who has reached a senior level in the sector.
The report, produced in partnership with Lloyds Commercial Banking, found that all of Britain’s leading FTSE 100 manufacturers now have at least one female director on their boards.
It suggested, however, more needed to be done to tackle the industry’s outdated ‘dirty and unglamorous’ image and to nurture talented women and girls.
Family firm Miller UK was established in 1978, with Jacqui joining three years later and going on to take responsibility for a range of sales, product distribution and marketing responsibilities as the firm has continued to grow considerably.
In the report, she gives her views on what more could be done to encourage others, explaining why it is so important to influence the next generation of girls to consider manufacturing and engineering as a career.
Changing perceptions about the industry requires efforts from schools as well as businesses, she suggested - although she advocates increasing gender diversity through encouragement and development, rather than enforcement.
Jacqui also believes it is important for girls to be taught STEM subjects with passion and to be exposed to inspiring role models, mentors and careers advice.
Women now account for 21% of directorships in FTSE 100 manufacturing companies, holding 64 out of 305 manufacturing board seats. While this is an improvement on last year, when they held 59 out of 309 seats and accounted for 19% of board positions, the report acknowledges more needs to be done.
Miller said: “I’ve enjoyed a great career in this sector and would love to see more young women and girls coming on board. However, they have to be enthused and inspired while young, which is why schools, parents and businesses all have a role to play. The reality is that we have to open their eyes and empower young women to realise their full career potential.”
Andy Tuscher, North East Region Director at EEF, said: “Jacqui is an inspiration so it’s great to see her featured in this way. The message from this report is clear - manufacturers are heading in the right direction, but cannot afford to let up.
“If our sector is to continue to thrive we need to be fishing from the entire talent pool and that means ensuring women have the right skills and opportunities and are represented at every level.”
He added that many leading women in manufacturing felt quotas were not the answer.
“They advocate evolution, not revolution, with companies continuing and improving their work to identify and nurture talented women and taking bigger strides in showing that a career in our sector is an attractive, exciting and equal opportunity for all,” he said.
“But, this isn’t just about what we as manufacturers can do. The work starts in the classroom where we must see a boost in the number of young women taking STEM subjects and encouraged to raise their career expectations.”
David Atkinson, UK head of manufacturing at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking SME, says: “It is reassuring to see that manufacturers are embracing change and addressing the lack of women within UK boardrooms. However, more needs to be done so that businesses of all sizes also recognise the need to develop the representation of women from the factory floor.
“The growth prospects of manufacturing businesses will depend on their ability to tackle stereotypes.
“By changing the perceptions of traditional industry, we can encourage a more diverse demographic to consider manufacturing-related careers. It is vital that we help improve the supply of talent to the sector to foster creativity and innovation, particularly if our nation’s ‘makers’ are to remain competitive on the global stage.”
As part of Lloyds Banking Group’s Helping Britain Prosper Plan, the firm is aiming to have 40% of senior roles held by women by 2020.