Leading Midlands business woman takes starring role in new report on women in manufacturing


Leading Midlands business woman – Flo Wood – has taken a starring role in a new report out today by EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, in partnership with Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.

The report – Women in Manufacturing – is the second annual assessment of the role of women in senior positions in manufacturing. It finds that all of Britain’s leading (FTSE 100) manufacturers now have at least one female director on their boards, but more needs to be done to tackle the industry’s outdated ‘dirty and unglamorous’ image and to nurture talented women and girls from classroom to boardroom.

Flo Wood, Managing Director of Datalink Electronics based in Loughborough, was selected to feature in the report as an inspiring example of a woman reaching a senior level in manufacturing. She gives her views on what more could be done to encourage others to follow in her footsteps and explains why it is so important to influence the next generation of girls to consider manufacturing and engineering as a career. She says that changing perceptions about the industry requires efforts from schools as well as businesses.  

Her views carry extra weight as SMEs, such as her own business, employ almost 60% of manufacturing workers with the majority of UK manufacturing businesses falling into this camp. This suggests that while it is important for women to have a voice in the boardroom, it is just as important to ensure they are reaching senior levels in SMEs too.

Flo, along with many of her female peers from the industry, advocates increasing gender diversity through encouragement and development, not enforcement. Rather than quotas, they want to see companies take steps to identify and support talented women, improve the image and perception of manufacturing and do more to engage with schools.  

They also identify how important it is for girls to be taught STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) 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 an improvement on last year when they held 59 out of 309 seats and accounted for 19% of board positions, the report acknowledges that more still needs to be done.

Flo Wood, Managing Director of Datalink Electronics, says: “This report raises some important points and will hopefully make people sit up and think about the opportunities for women in engineering and manufacturing.

“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.”

Richard Halstead, Midlands Region Director at EEF, says: “Flo 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.

“Many of the leading women in manufacturing are equally clear - quotas are 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. 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, 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 and desire 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.”

Women in manufacturing: key findings:

  • Heading in the right direction: every FTSE 100 manufacturer now has at least one woman on their board

  • Women now account for 21% of total directorships in FTSE 100 manufacturing companies – up from 19% last year

  • Over a third (36%) of manufacturing companies are at or above the Davies minimum 25% female board representation target – up from 31% last year

  • Leading the way: GlaxoSmithKline and Unilver are ahead of the pack with five female board members each, while Diageo has the greatest proportion at 44%

  • More to be done: industry must shed outdated ‘dirty and unglamorous’ image and take more steps to nurture talent from classroom to boardroom.