Packaging is not the first industry that comes to mind for many female graduates when setting out on their post-university job search. This isn’t surprising given its history as a heavily male-dominated sector but things are starting to change, offering boundless opportunities for women to thrive and forge rewarding careers.
The industry is now more than aware of its historical shortcomings when it came to encouraging, nurturing and promoting female employees, with many companies across the supply chain taking significant steps to both empower existing female employees and attract new talent. Equal opportunity employment, particularly in manufacturing positions, has provided a better workplace culture for employees en masse. Women have the unique opportunity to secure jobs in the sector while contributing to wider culture change.
Positive female role models are slowly becoming more abundant too, as the women who first braved the industry rise to the top, gain senior management positions and in turn offer a helping hand to the next generation of female leaders.
Though there is still a greater percentage of women in traditionally ‘feminine’ roles such as customer service and human resources, there are far more opportunities now emerging for graduates with relevant Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) degrees to enter technical roles helping to redress the gender bias. Moreover, the industry is facing a significant skills gap due to a wave older employees with extensive technical knowledge retiring, so anyone with a graduate level scientific and/or technical education will undoubtedly be in high demand. Roles for such female graduates could include managers, researchers or technologists, making the most of their competence and leadership skills.
On the employer side, companies should jump to recruit female graduates. In a recent study, conducted by EY and a Washington DC-based think tank, it was revealed that companies with significant numbers of female leaders are more profitable.
Packaging is a highly diverse sector, with opportunities across the supply chain in design, technology, product development and much more. Most companies will provide employees with specialist training relevant to their role or area of work, presenting a multitude of opportunities for all employees to further their careers and gain additional technical knowledge to enable them to move up the ranks. There has also been an industry focus on increasing number of specialist postgraduate courses available. For example, Sheffield Hallam University now provides a Masters course in Packaging Design and Newcastle University offers a Postgraduate Certificate in Food Packaging.
With the industry focus on investing in employees, it is primed for ambitious female graduates to find an engaging role that allows them to deepen their skills and understanding, backed by their employer. This provides not only professional development but also heightened personal satisfaction, which the industry hopes will retain female employees as well as addressing the impending skills gap. There are also likely to be ever more learning opportunities across the industry as more innovative packaging concepts come to the fore, such as personalisation and advances in digital, offering varied experiences and potential specialisms.
Abundant networking opportunities
Networking is important in almost every industry but becomes vital in providing support for women in traditionally male-dominated work environments. With this in mind, today’s female leaders have established a number of networking groups, like Women in PackagingUK, to provide support and guidance and opportunities to meet female counterparts from each area of the industry.
Women in Packaging UK holds regular events in cities across the country, offering a chance for women to get to know each other, share experiences and learn about each others’ roles. Membership is free and a must-have for any woman either working, or seeking work, in the packaging industry.
Those wishing to find out more about the Women in Packaging initiative can also contact the team via firstname.lastname@example.org.