Gender diversity in engineering

One of the North East’s best-known companies has its sights set on bringing greater gender diversity to the manufacturing sector.

Komatsu UK aims to show how engineering and manufacturing offer a range of careers and how industry can do more to attract more women to the sector.

The Birtley company is focused on showcasing the variety of exciting roles and opportunities that are available to enthusiastic females across yellow goods manufacturing.

Komatsu UK Director of Human Resources and Corporate Affairs, Tracey Bowman, who is to deliver an address at the North East Chamber of Commerce’s Inspiring Females Conference, outlined the range of initiatives the company is championing to demonstrate  its commitment to gender diversity across the workforce.
“As someone who has worked in manufacturing for 19 years, I have seen the number of female engineers increase,” said Tracey. “But we still must do more to promote ourselves as a diverse, innovative sector – an industry where women can realise their professional ambitions and excel.

“Engineering has a big role in the economy, yet engineering skills remain a shortage area in the UK, and only 12% of engineers are female.

From left to right, Tracey Bowman, Ann-Marie Husband, Kathryn Mullins, Rosie Brighty, Gemma Brotherton and Maria Dimova, 

Design engineer Kathryn Mullins and production engineer Jane Hodgson  supported the judging of the  prestigious  Formula 1 Schools World Champions 2019 Competition, that took place in Abu Dhabi.

The competition is essential to highlight the opportunities a career in engineering can provide to women.  Kathryn and Jane have judged regionally, nationally and internationally and the innovations brought forward by the female teams are always outstanding and make sure they let them know.

“Komatsu has for years been a real pioneer for gender diversity and that is part of the reason I joined the company,” said Kathryn. “The main focus is on finding enthusiastic, innovative people, of whatever gender, who can really add something to our  industry.”

The global manufacturing giant is seeking every available opportunity to advocate gender equality in the sector.

Senior Production Engineer and STEM Ambassador, Maria Dimova, said: “Manufacturing and engineering is a male-dominated industry, but that is changing. I had other opportunities, but after meeting Komatsu and learning of its commitment to continuous improvement, it was a simple choice. It’s now great to meet girls at careers events and explain how we need them and their ideas to drive forward our industry.”

Tracey agrees there is still much to do both as a company and as an industry to attract female talent, but said businesses are rapidly waking up to the benefits of gender diversity. She added: “Research demonstrates that gender diversity in the workforce is a key driver to growth and profitability. Diverse teams develop more innovative ideas because of different perspectives; groups of diverse problem solvers can outperform groups of high ability problem solvers. The evidence speaks for itself.

“We conducted a survey of our female employees to find out how inclusive the company is and highlight any perceived barriers, which could prevent career progression. As a result of the findings, we initiated a host of programmes to ensure we were not only fulfilling our obligation to current staff, but making sure we were an attractive career option for people seeking employment.”

The company has carried out training in Unconscious Bias, altered the wording of job adverts to remove gender-coded language, added paragraphs to job adverts to advise flexible working would be considered, and included modules on Equality and Diversity in its in-house Leadership Qualification.

Komatsu has delivered the highest quality excavators since establishing the plant in 1987, when it helped redefine modern manufacturing in the North East, establishing a range of Japanese practices and ways of working unheard of in most UK plants.

Originally creating 250 high quality manufacturing and engineering roles, Komatsu was at the forefront of the creation of a whole new industry in the North East that centred around automotive and construction equipment manufacturing. 

Notes to editors
Komatsu UK is part of the Global Komatsu organisation, which is the world’s second largest manufacturer and supplier of construction and mining equipment and has proudly been providing high-quality reliable products for nearly a century.  Komatsu’s head office is in Tokyo, and there are  262 companies in the Global Group, in which a total of over 62,000 people are employed.  Komatsu UK currently employs approximately 450 staff and has an extensive product portfolio, featuring 17 models.  It currently exports mainly to Europe and North Africa.  The UK plant at Birtley was officially opened in 1987 by HRH The Prince of Wales. 

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Factory Tour
The Komatsu UK Assembly line
Komatsu UK Ltd. is a major production facility for construction and mining equipment in the Komatsu group. Located in Birtley (UK), near Newcastle in North East England, Komatsu UK proudly provides high quality and reliable products. Komatsu UK currently employs approx. 400 staff and has an extensive product portfolio, featuring 17 models. It currently exports mainly to Europe and North Africa.