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05

MAY

2016

Kiwi women missing in manufacturing

Bobbi Ryan

The New Zealand manufacturing sector needs to do more to get women into leadership positions.

The manufacturing sector is under-represented in the top echelons of Kiwi businesswomen and a “champion” is needed to lure more women to the industry.

Statistics New Zealand figures show that women make up only one-quarter of employees in the manufacturing sector in New Zealand and they are even rarer in senior management positions.

I have worked on a wide number of senior operations appointments and fewer than 5% of the people sitting in senior manufacturing positions are women.

New Zealand has had women as Prime Minister, Chief Justice and Governor-General. We have also had women in charge of several of our biggest companies, including listed banks and telecommunications firms.

These leaders have provided inspiration to other Kiwi women, but we need more stories from the ‘factory floor’ to show modern manufacturing is a great option for women.

There are a number of reasons why manufacturing is not at the top of the list of career choices for many women and why few women are in senior positions in the industry.

Like construction, manufacturing has traditionally been seen as a ‘male’ industry. This sort of attitude takes a while to change.

It also takes some time for women joining the industry to work their way up, so those who start their career today might not get to senior management level for many years.

Another challenge is the “myth” that manufacturing is struggling in New Zealand and the career prospects are poor. Manufacturing is the single largest sector of the economy, employing almost 200,000 Kiwis and accounting for about 14% of GDP according to a recent Business NZ study.

Modern manufacturing is technology-intensive and requires skilled people, not only on the assembly line but in all aspects of the process. Attracting more women to the industry would help to address ongoing skill shortages.

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