In October 2020, Sandvik Coromant’s first female president, Nadine Crauwels, was inducted into the Women in Manufacturing Hall of Fame, which recognizes women who have made exceptional contributions to the industry. Commending the achievements of women in manufacturing is vital to promoting gender diversity. However, industry-wide, just one in three manufacturing professionals are women.
Why is gender diversity important and how can manufacturing companies foster a culture of inclusion?
The arrival of Industry 4.0, which uses smart technology to facilitate the automation and digitalisation of traditional manufacturing processes, has helped increase female participation. Yet manufacturing is still behind other sectors in gender diversity. According to a 2020 McKinsey report, in corporate America, women hold just 33% of entry-level roles in the engineering and industrial manufacturing sectors, and just 16% of corporate positions.
Why is it important to tackle these gender differences? Businesses that value diversity experience greater levels of success in their operations and finances and in society as a whole. In terms of operational success, a diverse workforce promotes a broader range of ideas and more dynamic interactions, which can improve problem-solving abilities and reduce bias. Manufacturing is an industry that constantly benefits from innovative new ideas, especially in the time of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and varied perspectives allow companies to remain at the forefront of their field.
Not only does diversity promote innovation, studies show that it also increases financial gain. McKinsey has also reported that companies with a diverse leadership are more likely to outperform their competitors in terms of profitability by up to 48%.
Increasing female participation in manufacturing at all levels can also change societal attitudes towards the industry. Women in leadership act as role models for young women in a field where they are underrepresented, as recognised by UNESCO, the European Commission and The Association of Academies and Societies of Sciences in Asia (AASSA). Female leaders are source of inspiration and raise awareness of the opportunities in STEM that are available to prospective students and can help to change the public’s perception of what women can or cannot do.
Sandvik is a global engineering company and tooling manufacturer with over 38,000 employees operating in over 160 countries. This global presence means it’s important to establish a strategy to encourage gender diversity, one that will be successful in the variety of markets, languages and cultures in which Sandvik operates.
Sandvik wants to establish a diverse workforce at all levels across its functions so that every employee receives the same treatment — regardless of their location or job role. A toolbox that includes e-learning, workshops and exercises has been introduced within different programs to help managers realize these goals.
For example, there is a core global leadership program that provides managers with an introduction to working with gender diversity and inclusion. Offering all managers at Sandvik Group this same program through the toolbox allows the company to achieve consistent attitudes, actions and responsibilities and make gender diversity and inclusion part of company culture on a global scale.
A Measured Approach
Sandvik’s primary vision is to set the benchmark in everything it does, including diversity and inclusion.
To promote a culture of inclusivity from the top down, Sandvik focuses on increasing diverse representation in leadership and critical roles. According to a Thomas and WiM survey, the greater the female leadership presence, the greater the female employee representation at lower levels. In alignment with these results, Sandvik has set a target to make one third of its managers female by 2030.
Setting a measurable target for female leadership is crucial to successfully achieving gender diversity. Progress can regularly be reviewed against the projection to see if it is on track to achieve the target. Areas that need improvement can be easily identified and tweaked to ensure success.
The combination of measurable targets and company-wide training encourages gender diversity across all business areas. Nadine Crauwels’ leadership at Sandvik is just one example of how women can make an exceptional impact on the manufacturing industry and contribute to its continued development.
Promoting a diverse workforce is vital to a company’s success in the 21st century, where increasrf emphasis is placed on equal opportunities and tackling bias. As a key industry in the global economy, manufacturing must continue its efforts to encourage female participation. In turn, companies will reap the rewards of increased innovation, greater financial gains and altering society’s perceptions of women in STEM.
Johan Kerstell is the EVP and head of human resources at high-tech global engineering group Sandvik. He has held various HR positions at Sandvik since joining in 2004 and previously worked as a consultant at Cap Gemini. Johan has a Master of Science in business economics from Uppsala University, Sweden, and is passionate about the development of teams and people.