Closing the gender gap in manufacturing

Historically, manufacturing has been seen as male dominated, with few women choosing to follow a career within the industry. Even today, women only make up 26 per cent of the workforce within this sector.

Kate Hulley is representative of a small percentage of business owners with a unique manufacturing business model. As the managing director and owner of Wigan based cardboard box manufacturing company, Belmont Packaging, she is creating jobs, driving growth and reducing gender inequality within the industry.

Female led manufacturing

Hulley speaks with great pride about running a company that is female-led: “Manufacturing is a sector I feel passionately about and figures show only a quarter of the industry workforce (26 per cent) are actually women, so of course I would like to encourage more women to seek out careers in such a fascinating and diverse industry.“

Having been in the industry for the majority of her working life, Hulley bought Belmont Packaging from her father in 2013. She’s the company’s first female owner and 40 per cent of her workforce is female, with several career-focused women heading up roles of responsibility. Hulley adds: “I am passionate about ensuring women and working mothers be the best they can be and that they can have it all, being a good mum and fulfilling their potential at work.”

An effective business model

Business models such as Belmont Packaging are proving that women are making successful headway in a male dominated industry and what’s more, this suggests how we can expect the industry to look in the future: “The variation in the industry is stimulating and we’re seeing more and more women getting involved,” concludes Hulley.

Hulley’s energy and attitude has ensured company growth and has landed the company with a number of lasting working relationships including Roots, Hallmark and New Balance.

What does the future look like?

A lack of female role models could arguably be one of the barriers for female start-ups in the manufacturing industry. In fact, women-led SMEs are hugely under represented in the manufacturing and construction sectors, accounting for only 7 per cent and 8 per cent of business.

Despite these figures, women are applying their skillsets to the industry, which Hulley believes could be the key to faster growth within the sector: “More women are needed in work to aid the economy, manufacturing is a wealth creation industry so the more the merrier! Women are able to bring softer skills to the party to aid cohesion and collective decision making.”

She also highlights that running a business in the manufacturing sector is no different to running a business in any other area of industry: “Whether male or female, when running a business self belief, tenacity and the ability to bounce back after knocks is what’s important.”