A quick scan of google news articles using the search term 'Women in Industry UK' – reveals a repetitive set of themes – gender pay gaps, need for female role models, greater awareness of STEM subjects and better representation of women. The UK Writers Guide blasts the lack of diversity, only 14% of primetime scripted TV in the UK is written by women. Even the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (PMSA) - a volunteer-run charity that has been recording public sculpture across the UK for three decades, found that of the 828 statues it had recorded, only 174 of them were female which is around one in five.
From construction to mining, aquaculture, technology, digital and the energy sector – the themes are unfortunately the same.
So where are our female role models and how can we create more to inspire the current and next generation of women?
In Cumbria, we are not doing too badly. A Cumbrian branch of Women in Nuclear was launched in March 2018 to help tackle the issue of only 22% of the nuclear workforce being women. We also have several high-profile women such as Dr Donna Connor, Head of Education and Skills at Sellafield Ltd, who founded the Sellafield Women’s Network in 2014 to support the progression of women in the nuclear industry and Isabelle Maddock, Group Finance Director for James Cropper one of only three stockmarket-listed businesses with an HQ in Cumbria. Then of course there is Beatrix Potter, Helen Skelton and Catherine Parr - the last of Henry VIII's six wives, and an excellent example of Cumbria's strong-willed, outspoken and fair-minded womenfolk.
But there is still room for improvement. Every June, the employment support sector celebrates the third annual Employability Day which is organised by the Employment Related Services Association (ERSA). The aim of the day is to celebrate and acknowledge the work the employment support sector does to help move people towards, into or to progress in work, which has a big impact on our local communities and on people's lives.
On Employability Day we celebrate schemes like our mentoring programmes and the Lancashire Careers Hub and Enterprise Adviser Network, which are funded by the Careers and Enterprise Company in association with Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership and delivered by Inspira. The Network is an excellent example of how women can become role models as the premise behind the scheme is to ensure employer engagement activities are embedded into every Lancashire school's curriculum.
Volunteer Enterprise Advisers (people are drawn from the business community) help educational institutions strategically plan employer engagement activities that help to inspire Cumbrian young people. To complement these activities, Enterprise Advisers need the help of other business leaders to provide opportunities and to get involved in skills fairs, mock interview experiences and work experience options. Cumbria's female role models can get involved in both aspects of the Network – helping young women to understand and consider a wide range of career options, some of which are in male-dominated industries or careers.
However, it is not just our young females who we should be inspiring, both counties have a large number of women who are looking to return to work post family or being a carer. Research has found that increasing the number of women in work by just five per cent could create £750m extra in tax revenue for the UK. This focus could also have a very real and positive impact on our economy and gender equality by seeing a greater representation of women across all industries.