Manufacturing inspiration – Leeds shines a spotlight on women in the sector
ConferenceLeeds is celebrating Leeds’ growing manufacturing sector by profiling women in the industry, including manufacturing professional Victoria Hopkins. According to the latest ONS data, the gender split in manufacturing is 76% men and 24% women, signifying a gender divide in the sector nationwide. Leeds’ manufacturing sector, however, is not only thriving with innovation and development within the industry, but it is also leading the way with the many women involved within the profession.
This celebration comes a century after women were granted the right to vote in the city. The suffragette movement in the UK led from one victory to another, and now sees women continue to achieve across multiple sectors traditionally considered as male dominated – with Victoria’s success in manufacturing a key example of how far we’ve come in 100 years.
Victoria is Managing Director and third generation custodian of Hopkins Catering Equipment, who are manufacturers of commercial catering equipment based in Leeds. Having been part of the company for 20 years, Victoria reflects on how she reached this point in her career:
“I didn’t always want a career in manufacturing. My Grandad, who started the business, told me many times when I was a little girl that this was ‘no place for a woman’ and that I would never work in the business. He used to tell me that it was a man’s world and if I wanted to run a business, he would open me a tea shop! Before I was due to leave for a diving job in the Philippines, I helped out in the sales office for two weeks… and I actually just ended up staying! I was so fascinated when I joined the business, at how we were able to turn a sheet of stainless steel into something truly remarkable.
“Working in a male dominated industry has never been an issue for me. I believe in my own capabilities and have a strong mind-set. Although I have experienced some men acting in a patronising way, overall, after 20 years in the industry, I have had very little remark on my gender, and so much reward. There are actually many female business leaders within the engineering and manufacturing sector, managing very successful businesses, including many in Leeds and I thoroughly believe that the dynamics of our industry are changing.
“It is incredibly important that women are involved in this sector and there is a huge talent pool that is currently not being tapped into. What’s more, it’s so important to broaden women’s perceptions of manufacturing, so they want to be involved. Manufacturing is about making something – but that something can be quite literally anything, from aircraft engines to speciality bread! It is so incredibly diverse and we need to expel the outdated views that I believe a lot of women have about the industry – that the jobs are in a factory, low paid and monotonous. That really is not the case.”
Victoria is also Chair of the Manufacturing Society in Leeds, helping lead the way in issues affecting the sector across the country: “It’s a great privilege to be the Chair of Leeds Manufacturing Alliance. We work on behalf of manufacturers to lobby local and national government about the issues affecting the sector and also liaise with the educational sector to address skills shortages. We aim to raise awareness and improve the image of local manufacturers.”
“It is also an honour to be chair of such a brilliant society in the city of Leeds. Currently in Leeds, the sector is truly thriving and is one of the largest centres for manufacturing in the UK across a broad range of industries. It’s a fantastic city to do business and we have a wide range of support organisations and grants available to us, which are pivotal to assisting growing companies with their expansion. With this excellent growth, provides the ideal location for many to come here and discuss world leading innovations within the sector.”