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Diversity drives innovation

The headline for this article – taken from a recent editorial that appeared in The Manufacturer – makes a bold assertion that is very much in keeping with the times.

Social boundaries are being pushed back on all fronts, including in the sensitive area concerned with improving ethnicity and gender equality in the workplace. But is this statement true and based on fact, or on fashion and what people simply want to hear?

The article reports that 26% of the manufacturing workforce in this country is female, that only 13% originates from ethnic minority groups and that the case for promoting a diverse and inclusive culture is overwhelming. It suggests that the likelihood of better business outcomes would increase eight times; the propensity for innovation and agility by six times; improved performance three times; and the chance of exceeding financial targets would be doubled. So, what are we waiting for?

The truth is, the barriers to changes in the workplace that most of us want to see are complex and rooted in history; who, for example, can deny that much of industry in the UK was originally designed by men, for men? While today’s industrialists should not be held responsible for a past in which they had no involvement, they can devote time and resources now to effecting change for a better future.

A recent ‘Inspiring Women in Manufacturing’ survey of 80 women working in the sector conducted by innovation specialists KTN in association with The Manufacturer pointed out that impacting societal change – employment, equality of opportunity, skills development – is significantly more important to women than either digitalisation or net zero. The survey found that 57.5% felt that visible diversity within a sector would lead to a more diverse workforce.

Men and women clearly think differently about innovation, which may be no bad thing. Involving women early on in developing technologies may lead to higher value inclusive products that may even boost overall productivity.

According to the experts, role models from different genders, ethnicities and backgrounds, and transparency about the variety of roles, people and mixture of the benefits manufacturing can bring – not only to the economy, environment and state-of-the-art, but also society – is what will inspire a diverse next generation.

Individual companies also often see things differently. But all I can say is that UnitBirwelco has adopted a policy of constantly evolving and learning how best to diversify its workforce and that this has paid huge dividends – especially during a period when we have all been forced to take a long hard look at ouselves in the mirror to seek ways to future-proof our businesses.