Supporting women into leadership roles in manufacturing

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day (Friday 8th March) is ‘Inspire Inclusion’. One of the areas referenced on the campaign website is ‘supporting women and girls into leadership, decision-making, business and STEM’, so we spoke to Filtermist’s Commercial Director, Jo Morris, to get her take on this from the perspective of a female Board member in the manufacturing industry.

 “I have spent my whole career in business – both running my own businesses, helping other leaders develop their teams to improve business performance, and now steering the commercial direction for Filtermist.

“I think every woman you speak to in business will be able to name other key women that acted as cheerleaders along the way – I know I can. These women play a vital role as mentors, advisors, sounding boards, champions and influencers. Knowing you have their support can make all the difference, and this is what I try and do for some of the women I work with, whilst encouraging them to do the same for their teams.

“Nothing makes me prouder than spotting the potential in someone and helping them to maximise their strengths to develop their career. Whether that’s informal check-in calls, being there as a fresh pair of eyes, recommending books, podcasts, sharing leadership tips, or just having a cup of coffee together and chatting. Helping to give women confidence in their own abilities by providing some direction can have huge knock-on effects to their over-all life. And not only their life, but also their families.

“By empowering women in the workplace, we are inspiring the next generation of female leaders to believe they can achieve whatever they set their mind to. ‘If Mum can do it, I can do it’. That’s a very powerful message.

“It is also widely recognised that women are far more likely to suffer from imposter syndrome and lack of confidence than men. This means they can be reluctant to be vocal about their abilities and can be in danger of being overlooked when it comes to progression opportunities.

“Championing women in the workplace is even more important in the manufacturing world, as this is still a traditionally male-dominated industry. You only have to go to a Trade Association meeting to see this. 28% of all Filtermist employees are female, but almost half of my direct reports are women which is a statistic I am extremely proud of. These include people responsible for transport, contracts administration, scheduling engineers, customer care, marketing and divisional sales.

“I am passionate about making sure that our women are supported, encouraged and given the same development opportunities as their male co-workers. Despite the fact that this is the 21st Century, women often have family demands outside of the workplace which can impact on work. Juggling childcare or aging parents and household responsibilities often falls to women, and there are health issues specific to women which can also affect their working life. The key to managing all of these things is to invite open dialogue so any issues can be discussed, and solutions found together.

“Flexibility works both ways – if, as a business we can accommodate requests to support an individual, we undoubtedly find that this attitude is reciprocated. Like everything in life, you get out what you put in.

“From a leadership perspective this means you end up with a diverse, committed team that understands the importance of nurturing their successors – of all genders.”

Follow Jo on LinkedIn.