Breaking barriers and empowering women in advanced manufacturing

Significant barriers hinder women from entering the advanced manufacturing sectors. That’s one of the findings from a study commissioned by Hanga-Aro-Rau as a part of the wider industry equity project and conducted by Project Gender.

Women in Advanced Manufacturing report sheds light on challenges faced by women seeking opportunities in this industry, highlighting the urgent need for change.

With the manufacturing and engineering sectors facing a projected skills gap of up to 40,000 roles, the report’s recommendations offer a vital blueprint for attracting and retaining women in this field.

The research has revealed that pathways leading into the advanced manufacturing sectors are often unclear and under-promoted as a legitimate career in high schools. While word-of-mouth and personal networks are often utilised within the industry, these methods tend to disadvantage women as they tend to be overlooked or excluded from opportunities in a male-dominated field.

The Women in Advanced Manufacturing report presents eight key recommendations aimed at both attracting women to the sector and fostering a supportive environment to encourage their continuing growth within the industry. These recommendations are more critical now than ever, as the manufacturing and engineering industries face an impending shortage of skilled workers.

As identified in our research conducted in 2022 on the Post-Covid-19 Workforce Development Needs of the Manufacturing and Engineering sectors, women currently only make up 30 per cent of the overall manufacturing workforce and only eight per cent for the engineering sector – and it’s been like this for more than a decade. Shockingly, this number plummets to only 12 per cent when considering women pursuing studies in manufacturing and engineering. This underrepresentation highlights a significant untapped resource that, if harnessed, could breathe new life into the industry.

We take great pride in sharing this report and its valuable recommendations with our industries, particularly following on from our recent presentation at the BuildNZ conference, where we explored what we are doing and how our industries can break down barriers to bring more wāhine into the sectors.

Hanga-Aro-Rau has heard loud and clear from industry that the desire for change is there. We are confident that by continuing to deliver research and tools that outline how we can best support underserved groups within our sectors, we can break down the barriers, retain workers, and create a more inclusive and sustainable workforce for our industries.