In this article, Victoria Brocklesby, COO and Founder of Origin, UK-based manufacturer of bespoke windows and doors, discusses why the conversation for female equality is not over and what the manufacturing industry needs to do to foster long-term change.
The theme for International Women’s Day this year is ‘embrace equity’. As a society, we’re familiar with the concept of equality, but the conversation of equity is newer and can feel more abstract. This is complicated by the fact that the two words are often used interchangeably.
Despite this, they have different meanings and therefore represent different concepts. Equality refers to everyone being given the same opportunity. However, equity recognises that everyone has different circumstances and may require different resources to embrace those opportunities.
This concept highlights that International Women’s Day is still important in 2023 because the conversation is not over. Anyone who thought it was, only needs to look at the new data published by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) which shows that women in paid employment effectively work for free 54 days a year. Clearly, a chasm remains between men and women in the workplace.
The gap is even more prevalent in industries such as manufacturing which are so acutely male-dominated. According to the World Economic Forum, women’s share of the workforce in manufacturing breaks down to 33% of junior-level staff, 24% of mid-level staff, 15% of senior-level staff, and only 9% of CEOs. So, alongside there being a pay disparity, there also remains a problem with women even having a seat at the table.
My own journey into manufacturing is a unique one – in fact, I never imagined it happening as quickly as it did. I founded Origin with my cousin, Neil, when I was fresh out of university having studied Physics and Space Science at Southampton. Originally, I believed I’d work a desk job in the city but life can always take an unexpected turn. We recognised there was a gap in the market for quality, aluminium bi-fold doors, so we took a leap of faith and went for it.
Working for a company I helped create afforded me the luxury of forging my own path. I started out as the bookkeeper and sales manager, but over the years, I have worked in nearly every department at Origin, before taking on the COO role. Even now, although my job title is COO, it’s all-encompassing and I relish being involved in more than what is traditionally seen as a Chief Operating Officer’s role.
I’m lucky to be in a position where being female has never hindered my opportunities in life, but the same cannot be said for other women in manufacturing and the wider workplace. At Origin, I have had the privilege of being part of, growing and nurturing a diverse team. This is something that should be universal throughout the industry – Origin shouldn’t be unique for this fact.
I believe it’s fiction that women can’t do the same roles as men. There is an opportunity here to ensure everyone has the resources they need in order to create diverse teams. Women have a lot to offer the manufacturing industry, but education and empowering women is critical to ensuring an equitable and equal future for the industry.
As women, we should have the confidence to embrace who we are and to define and achieve our goals and aspirations, but we need the space and resources to do this. That is why I believe International Women’s Day is still important in 2023 and why the conversation is only growing stronger.
To read similar articles, check out our Leadership channel.
About the author
Victoria Brocklesby founded Origin in 2002, alongside her cousin Neil Ginger. Having studied physics and space science at university, Victoria moved straight to a career in manufacturing aluminium bi-folding doors – a far cry from her original plan to find a desk job in the city. The mum of two sons is constantly juggling her busy family life with running Origin.
As Victoria rose from admin manager to COO, so did the company, becoming one of the biggest UK aluminium manufacturers of bi-fold and residential doors and windows. Like its creators, Origin has evolved, now with an annual turnover of over £39m and operations in Dubai, North America and Europe.