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By Gordon Kirk, Event Director, Subcon


If you have attended either Subcon or the EEF National Manufacturing Conference over the past few years, you will have noticed that one recurrent theme has been the increasing profile of women in industry.

Whilst no one could claim the industry has an exemplary track record, it is clear that there has been a huge amount of progress. For example, this year, Subcon will have no shortage of inspirational female speakers: cybernetics specialist Nadine Stech, who helped to design Linx, the world’s most intelligent prosthetic limb, is just one example. (Read more about Nadine and profiles of other inspiring women in manufacturing on EEF’s website.) She will be joined by Dr Caroline Hargrove, the CTO of McLaren Applied Technologies, Dr Lina Huertas, Head of Technology Strategy for Digital Manufacturing at the Manufacturing Technologies Centre and Prof. Dame Jane Jiang, Director of the EPSRC Future Metrology Hub.

But there is still a lot to be done. For 2018, Subcon research has shown that nearly two- thirds (63%) of UK engineering and manufacturing companies ranked “increasing the number of young people working in the engineering industry” as very important. By comparison, 24% ranked “increasing the number of women working in the engineering industry” as important.

Improved outreach to women ranks as the top tactic to improve their presence in industry, as well as a higher profile of female engineering leaders. However, there are thornier issues to grasp as well – the third biggest tactic was increased transparency on pay in order to close gender gaps.

And of course it is not just about net new recruitment. The Women’s Engineering Society estimates that 20,000 women have left engineering to have children and wish to come back to the industry. This represents a huge pool of senior female engineering talent.

Subcon research has shown that flexible working patterns, return to work programmes and improved tax/childcare incentives are the top three most effective ways to facilitate the return of this talent pool. Interestingly, the research also suggests that businesses know it is likely to fall to them to make a return to work easier, as opposed to government involvement.

According to the latest ONS data the gender split in manufacturing is 76% men and 24% women. We look forward to debate and action throughout Subcon that starts to close this gap.

Subcon takes place 5-7 June at NEC, Birmingham, alongside new sister show The Engineer Expo.


Visitors can register for a free pass at, and passes to Subcon give visitors access to Automechanika Birmingham free of charge.