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Home  > Publications  > Blog  > The coatings industry needs more women!

Saturday, 27 May 2017

The coatings industry needs more women!

Friday, 25 November 2016 | Posted by: Sonja Schulte, European Coatings Journal

"Not again!” is probably what some of you are thinking. The proportion of women in the coatings industry is low and I’m wondering whether it should stay that way or whether the paint industry wouldn’t be better off actively doing something about it. You see, according to Credit Suisse's most recent study, the more women who are involved in decision-making, the better a company performs. On top of this, there is the ever-threatening shortage of skilled workers. Yes, while there may be a desire within the industry to hire more women and to place them in senior positions, unfortunately the reality is somewhat different. However, that can be changed.

The figures from the Credit Suisse study speak a clear language: having a woman in the managerial ranks has increased a company's return on capital by 3.3% per year over the past decade, compared to not having one there. And companies in which women make up 15% of those ranks are 50% more profitable than those with less than 10%, as shown by Credit Suisse's latest survey of 3000 large companies.

The coatings industry wants more women, but somehow it’s not happening

A major association recently held a conference in Germany. Around 400 participants turned up to inform and be informed over a period of two days. Women were in attendance too, of course, but they only made up 15% of the numbers. This same association, however, wants to elect a woman onto the Executive Board in the upcoming board elections. It’s a similar picture in other associations and groups within that industry. Now some of you might object that the industry is highly male-dominated because males typically predominate in the training courses and degree programmes. But that it not true: fact is that women constitute by far the higher percentage of participants in further education and training. Somehow, this percentage fails to carry over into the coatings industry. There are doubtless reasons a plenty for this, and they can’t all be highlighted in a blog.

Unfair: Women earn much less

If you want more women, the first thing you need to do is to pay them the same as men. This isn’t happening at the moment – at least, not in the geographical area spanned by Germany/Austria/Switzerland. Women are clearly being disadvantaged in the coatings industry when it comes to remuneration. When FARBE UND LACK, a German coatings journal, together with an association of coatings engineers , conducted a salary survey (www.farbeundlack.de/gehaltsumfrage-2016, German) of nearly 1,000 employees, it found that men earn on average 20,000 € more than their female colleagues. And this difference cannot be attributed to the fact that it is more common for women to work part-time – equal numbers of male and female part-time workers took part in the survey. Fair remuneration would at least be one step towards attracting more women into the industry.

The No. 1 obstacle: The glass ceiling

Studies like that conducted by Credit Suisse are two-a-penny and the call for women's quotas keeps resurfacing in different sectors. This usually leads to a flurry of promotional programmes being set up within companies, but these tend to be slow and sometimes are a complete failure. One reason is the infamous "glass ceiling”, and I believe this also exists in the coatings industry. Although women’s numbers in management levels B and C are on the rise, managing boards remain firmly in the hands of men. According to a 2015 study by consulting company Ernst & Young, fewer than six percent of the board members of stock-market listed companies are women. Why is it so difficult for women to make it into the boardroom? "The glass ceiling, which many career-oriented women fail to smash through, is closely linked to the subconscious bias of men and women who harbour prejudices against female leaders and thus prevent them from getting to the top," explains Barbara Lutz, founder of the Women's Career Index (FKi).

How to successfully promote women

If you want to promote women in your company, you have to get the basics right:

a)       The decision to promote more women must come from top management and the management must live out this top priority.

b)      You need staying power and perseverance.

c)       Even committed companies manage to promote just 1% growth of women into management positions per year.

d)      Familiarize yourself with in-house salary structures.

e)      Form mixed teams

f)        Present successful women as role models in in-house communications

g)       Count parental leave as years of service or grant generous sabbaticals.

h)      Get your company to participate in "Girls' Day”.

i)        Maintain contact during parental leave

j)        Actively break down subconscious thought patterns, e.g. by holding workshops

k)       Build up a female talent pool as well

l)        Promote parental leave among men

m)    Create flexible working hours

These, at any rate, are some of the basic conditions created by those companies at the top of the women's career index (2015) (among others, Hewlett Packard, Deutsche Telekom, Airbus Group).

So, now, when are you going to start actively promoting women?

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