Industrial and Manufacturing – are logistics leaders the key to unlocking gender imbalance at the top?

It is no secret that the industrial and manufacturing industry has an issue with gender diversity across the board. It’s a landscape that has typically attracted men at all levels, from the factory floor to the c-suite. Despite this, many industry leaders are calling for more diversity, particularly at the top. But with a pipeline of male-only talent feeding the boards and c-suites around the world, how can women expect to break into the boardroom with little to no industry experience?

As part of a market mapping exercise recently undertaken for a client, Beaumont Bailey researched gender diversity across the industrial and manufacturing sector to better understand just how under-represented women are in plant and production management roles and how we can help support positive change. The findings give an indication to the work that needs to be done to turn things around and create the diverse c-suites of the future that we strive for.

The Findings

Beaumont Bailey conducted a deep dive into the gender demographics across key industrial and manufacturing markets at management level. We found that women make up 10% or less of Plant or Production Managers in a range of industries; automotive (10%), building materials (4.5%), mechanical and industrial engineering (9%) and mining and metals (8%). This key management role is, seemingly, one reserved for men. When we looked at the same data, but divided it by key European markets, a similar picture presented itself. In Germany 6.5% of Plant or Production Managers are female in the industrial sector, in France 6.2% and Belgium 5.4%. This trend is not unique to Central Europe either, there is minimal female representation in plant or production management roles globally.

An area of management that does buck this trend is logistics. Women are, on the whole, better represented in logistics management roles across the industrial and manufacturing space. As part of our research, we looked at the number of women in logistics management roles in the mining and metal industry, compared to their counterparts in plant or production management. Interestingly, far more women are represented in logistics. In Germany 12% of logistics managers are women, 21% in Belgium, 26% in France and 25% outside of mainland Europe.

A reason for these higher percentages is because a higher proportion of logistics managers migrate from neighbouring industries. Through our research, we identified that some logistics personnel had previously worked for competitors in the same industry however, a significantly higher proportion had transferred from organisations outside the industrial and manufacturing industry – namely businesses such as DHL, FedEx and UPS.

What this means

Unlike plant and production management, specific industry experience is not required to be successful in logistics roles across the industrial and manufacturing industry. This opens up an opportunity to recruit via a whole new pool of diverse talent. The higher proportion of women in logistics roles, compared to other positions across the industrial and manufacturing industry, means that there is hope for these women to become the c-suite of the future. Our research did in fact demonstrate this, with a higher proportion of CEOs and COOs currently in mining and metals originating from a background in logistics. While only 2% of CEOs had a plant or production management background, 5% had come from a career in logistics. Similarly, we found that 12% of COOs came from a logistics background, compared to only 7% from plant or production.

Making real change

It goes without saying that the best way to address the gender imbalance across the industry is to de-stigmatise industrial and manufacturing as a male-only space and encourage women into careers in the industry. In addition to this, male gate-keepers must give women more opportunities at all levels to really help accelerate change. In the shorter-term, however, it is clear that there is an opportunity for female leaders in logistics roles to make a real impact at the top. If succession plans are well managed and focus on diversity, hiring skilled female talent in logistics management roles can help jumpstart change in a world where men rule.

If you would like to get in touch and find out how Beaumont Bailey can help improve gender imbalance in your business, please contact us on or via our web form here.