In March every year, people worldwide recognise International Women’s Day (IWD): a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women from all walks of life.

The UN’s theme for International Women’s Day 2023 is ‘DigitALL: innovation and technology for gender equality’. This topic aligns with the 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW-67), which has one priority theme: harnessing digital education to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

With the focus of this year’s IWD event on the role of women in tech-based roles, many industries will be turning their attention to gender equality and representation — and electronics manufacturing is no exception.

It is no secret that women are highly underrepresented in the manufacturing sector. So, what is causing this inequality — and how will addressing it help to fill skills gaps at this crucial turning point in the technological revolution?

Bridging the gender gap

Manufacturing has always been a ‘male-heavy’ sector, and although the gender balance is shifting in the right direction, there is still plenty of progress to be made.

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) found that women only make up around 37% of manufacturing workers — based on the relatively small number of countries that report complete industrial employment data by gender.

Still, despite the lack of female representation, 75% of women are likely or very likely to recommend a career in manufacturing. So, what is preventing more girls from pursuing jobs in this field?

It is a bit of a vicious cycle. The shortage of female mentors and role models deters women from entering and developing within tech-based careers, tipping the balance in favour of men. This disparity is most clearly demonstrated by the absence of women in high-level positions, with only around 25% of manufacturing leaders being female.

Addressing gender inequality is crucial within the electronics sector. Not only is this imbalance slowing the industry’s journey to becoming more inclusive, but it is also exacerbating the labour shortages that have impacted operations since the pandemic began.

Filling skills gaps will remain one of the biggest challenges to manufacturing in 2023, as the demand for electronics products and solutions escalates faster than many product developers can cope with.

If this trend continues, the manufacturing sector will face a global labour shortage of 7.9 million workers by 2030, which could cost the UK economy as much as $17.5bn (£14.6bn) in lost manufacturing output by the same year.

So, encouraging more women to train as manufacturers and engineers is a no-brainer — and essential if the sector is to keep up with growing demand. But how can the manufacturing industry achieve this?

Making way for women in electronics

Increasing the proportion of women in manufacturing starts with inspiring the next generation of female talent at a young age.

Early intervention and education are key. Girls are often discouraged from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects at school, which has a knock-on effect on the number of students who develop an interest in related careers.

But in the increasingly digital world, we need more manufacturing professionals with the technical knowledge, skills and training to develop complex components and devices — all capabilities built in the classroom.

However, encouraging girls to pursue manufacturing and other technical careers does not stop there. It is the responsibility of manufacturing companies everywhere — from electronic manufacturing service (EMS) providers to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) — to do their bit to further the gender equality cause.

This action can take many forms, such as running outreach programmes for local schools and colleges, assessing the fairness of hiring processes and providing mentors for young female professionals.

No matter what route organisations choose, being proactive is critical for meeting social responsibility targets — and securing the industry’s future.

Supporting women in manufacturing

As a global EMS provider, EC Electronics understands the need to address the persistent lack of female representation within manufacturing and fully supports the sector’s broader mission to make a positive and lasting change.

We caught up with Sarah Pougher, a senior buyer within our purchasing team, about her experience within the manufacturing sector so far…

‘Whilst I would say the industry is still predominantly male-dominated, in my six years at EC Electronics, I have seen this balance begin to shift as more and more women join the field’, Sarah said.

She continued: ‘Three years ago, I was given the opportunity to help set up the newly opened office in the Netherlands, working with the team to identify and manage our new and existing European supply chain. This experience has enabled me to grow and learn in my career and as a person, and I hope many more women in the industry will soon have access to more of these opportunities’.

EC Electronics works hard to enable our people to be the best they can be, believing that talented and hardworking staff should be recognised and rewarded. With this in mind, we look forward to celebrating the achievements of our female colleagues and welcoming more women into our team in the future.

Interested in a career in electronics manufacturing? Take a look at our available vacancies and get in touch to learn more about working with us!