Manufacturing companies in the FTSE 100 have more women on their boards compared with the overall index but employ fewer women professionals than in most other industries.
A study by the Engineering Employers Federation (EEF) found that of the 29 manufacturing firms in the FTSE 100, women account for 19 per cent of board positions, just above the 17 per cent average of the FTSE 100.
However, the EEF said the number of women engineers in the UK was far too low as nine out of 10 engineers were male, particularly at a time when manufacturing faced a chronic shortfall in engineers.
Overall, just 20 per cent of the manufacturing and engineering workforce is female, compared with 49 per cent in other sectors.
Only 6 per cent of the UK's engineers are female – fewer than any other country in Europe. Spain has 18 per cent and Italy 20 per cent. In Sweden the number is 26 per cent. To boost the numbers the EEF chief executive Terry Scuoler, pictured below, has called for a national campaign bringing together education and industry to encourage girls to study the Stem subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) to professional levels, as well as apprenticeships; half of Britain's state schools have no female students studying A-level physics.
He said: "Women are substantially under-represented in manufacturing at a time when industry needs to be tapping into every potential talent pool to access the skills it needs."
Careers advice must focus on promoting science and engineering options at a much early stage in school than the current key stages 4 and 5, he added.
The EEF wants manufacturers to encourage apprentices and manufacturing graduates to go back into their schools, colleges and universities to promote careers in industry.
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