It’s no secret that manufacturing has been a male dominated industry since its inception. Few women chose a career within the industry and the ones who do are few and far between. But does it make sense that in 2017 women only make up 26% of the workforce within this sector?

Kate Hulley is an anomaly in the world of manufacturing. As well as being a mum to three, she is also the Managing Director and owner of Belmont Packaging,  a female-led cardboard box manufacturing company in Wigan, Lancashire. She’s proud to be demonstrating a unique business model within the industry, creating jobs, driving growth and reducing gender inequality. 

Female Led Manufacturing

If you ask someone who doesn’t work in manufacturing, their opinion on the industry will likely prompt a response including visions of factories, assembly lines, men in overalls and very few women.

Kate speaks with great pride about running a company that is female-led; “Manufacturing is a sector I feel passionately about and figures show only a quarter of the industry workforce (26%) are actually women, so of course I would like to encourage more women to seek out careers in such a fascinating and diverse industry.“

“It’s fantastic being a woman in manufacturing, we bring the softer skills to what could be classed as a difficult industry to work in.”

Kate has been in the industry for the majority of her working life and bought the family business in 2013. She’s the company’s first female owner and 40% of her workforce are female, with several career focused women heading up roles of  significant responsibility; “I am passionate about ensuring women and working mothers be the best they can be and that they can have it all, being a good mum and fulfilling their potential at work.”

An effective business model

It goes without saying that an effective business model is at the core of any successful company. Business models such as Belmonts’ are proving that women can be very successful in manufacturing and what’s more,  they’re setting an example of how we can expect the industry to look in the future; “The variation in the industry is stimulating and we’re seeing more and more women who are getting involved.”

Today, Belmont Packaging is a recognised and successful name in the world of manufacturing with a 90% customer retention rate and growing year on year. Kates’ energy and tenacious attitude has ensured company growth and has landed the company with a number of lasting working relationships including the likes of Roots, Hallmark and New Balance.

What does the future look like?

Currently, women don’t always make the link between a rewarding job and a job in manufacturing. One of the barriers for female start-ups in this industry is arguable the lack of role models. In fact, women-led SMEs are hugely underrepresented in the manufacturing and construction sectors, accounting for only 7% and 8% of business respectively.

Kate explains that despite these figures, women are able to bring a multitude of different skills to the industry, which she believes could be the key to faster growth within the sector; “More women are needed in work to aid the economy, manufacturing is a wealth creation industry so the more the merrier! Women are able to bring softer skills to the party to aid cohesion and collective decision making.”

However, she highlights that running a business in the manufacturing sector is just like running a business in any other area of industry;“Whether male or female, when running a business self belief, tenacity and the ability to bounce back after knocks are important.”

When asked for her advice for anyone considering a career or business venture into the manufacturing industry, Kate says;  “Go for it, you only live once and you won’t regret it!”

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