Cambridge Industrial Innovaton Policy's Jennifer Castañeda-Navarrete delivered the keynote address at the recent Women in Manufacturing Conference, a pioneering event organised by the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) and Innovate UK's Made Smarter Innovation programme.
The Changing Perceptions conference held on 31st October at the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry was designed to champion gender representation in the manufacturing industry and offered attendees a day of inspiring talks, collaborative workshops, and valuable networking opportunities.
Over 160 delegates from diverse manufacturing backgrounds attended the conference, including individuals from manufacturing industries, educational institutions, and manufacturing associations. Attendees ranged from apprentices to senior leaders.
During the keynote address at the event, Jennifer and Dalila Ribaudo from Aston University discussed the representation of women in the UK manufacturing industry, the challenges it faces, and how it compares in other contexts. They highlighted the gender gap in UK manufacturing and the obstacles hindering progress. Their engaging talk was the catalyst for meaningful discussions about how the manufacturing sector can achieve true inclusivity and diversity.
Women in Manufacturing Initiative
The conference marked the inaugural event of the Women in Manufacturing (WiM) initiative, which was established in 2022. WiM is led by a network of dedicated academics, practitioners, and professionals working within the field of manufacturing. Its mission is to provide networking opportunities and peer support through a series of events supported by thought leadership, industry expertise, and policy advocacy.
Jennifer’s talk and conference agenda was informed by her recent InterAct-funded project "Women in Digital Manufacturing," conducted in collaboration with the Women in Manufacturing Initiative. As part of the project, Jennifer authored a policy brief aimed at raising awareness about the challenges faced by women in the manufacturing industry and advocating for gender-inclusive digitalisation.
Jennifer and Dalila also presented findings from an ongoing project involving a systematic review on perceptions of manufacturing across seven countries. This project is funded by InterAct and conducted in collaboration with Guendalina Anzolin from the Institute for Manufacturing.
In addition to her keynote address, Jennifer also led an interactive afternoon workshop titled "Be Who You See." The workshop highlighted women's diverse roles in the industry, from engineering and design to leadership, HR, and communications.
Nikita, an MTC Apprentice, emphasised the importance of providing visibility of women from various manufacturing sectors, stating, "The event has been so insightful. I've had the opportunity to meet women working in all areas of manufacturing that I would never have done before.”
“The Women in Manufacturing Conference was not only a testament to the growing momentum for inclusivity in the manufacturing sector but also a testament to the power of thought leadership and meaningful engagement in driving industry change,” said Jennifer.
“The event stands as a pivotal moment in the ongoing journey toward a more diverse and representative manufacturing industry. With its positive impact, it has set the stage for an even more promising future in the field".