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The Gender Gap

To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March 2023, the April issue of ISMR features this article by manufacturing lawyer, Lucy Pringle, who is a Partner at international law firm, Womble Bond Dickinson. She has been a manufacturing lawyer for 15 years, with a passion for the sector, and is also a keen advocate for women in STEM.

In this article, she analyses similarities between the legal and the manufacturing sectors in terms of attracting and retaining female talent and draws upon her experience as a lawyer and mentor to provide some tips for manufacturing leaders. She also highlights how lessons learned on supporting the progression of women in law can transfer to manufacturing.

Manufacturing and Law

What do Manufacturing and Law have in common?  Both are traditionally male-dominated work environments, which increasingly attract women into their industries at entry level but have not seen the same pace of change in terms of women reaching senior leadership roles.

I have been a manufacturing lawyer for 15 years and love working with manufacturing businesses. The people in the sector are a pleasure to work with – friendly, very smart and collaborative. Those clients are also almost uniformly male. I have always felt welcome and, contrary to stereotypes, have experienced a distinct lack of macho-culture. This experience has shown me that a career in the manufacturing industry has so much to offer women. There are many efforts to improve the numbers of women in STEM and I've been delighted to see the numbers of women at industry events increase year on year, but there is still huge progress to be made.

The skills gap in manufacturing is well documented. Businesses which fail to appeal to 50% of the population are missing a huge pool of talent that can help to address that gap. In the legal profession, we have seen that simply hoping for change does not alter the status quo. Despite, for many years, the majority of law graduates entering the profession being female, improvements in the gender balance at the top of law firms proved to be glacial until targeted action was implemented.

Businesses need to take concrete steps to change the way women experience their workplace to attract, retain and promote women. And the good news is that most of the changes don't cost a penny - very lean! 

What can you learn from a law firm?

I recently set up and now co-chair Womble Bond Dickinson's women's network, which has given me a wealth of exposure to what women need to thrive in the workplace.  We don't have all the answers (and the answers we've found won't be relevant to all women) but here are some of the key things we have learned that you can transfer into your own business:

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