Headland Technology co-founder and AMTIL director Dianne Kloe added: “There is 43 per cent female representation in the new cabinet, we’d like to see the sector strive for something similar in the next decade.”
With unemployment at a 48-year low of 3.5 per cent and skills shortages stifling growth opportunities for businesses across a range of industries, adding more women to the talent pipeline would also be a welcome workforce boost for manufacturers.
The National Skills Commission estimated that there will be 23,100 new jobs in the sector that need to be filled to meet client demand by November 2026, on top of existing vacancies.
One of the first women to take on an executive role in manufacturing in Australia, Ms Kloe said sexism was common at the start of her career but that it was improving.
“The commanding heights of manufacturing in the 1980s was very much reflective of the whole sector, one dominated by men,” the former teacher said.
“That was a global phenomenon. When we [Ms Kloe and Headland co-founder and husband Peter] travelled to Japan for business, one of the partners we visited first assumed I was the secretary.
“They didn’t want to negotiate with me. I said ‘well you’re going to have to because I’m the co-owner of the business.’”
But she said that advanced manufacturing was “a great place to be” for women wanting to advance quickly in business, saying the sector was expanding and “the opportunities are there” for those who want them.
Catten Industries CEO Latinka Cubitt followed Ms Kloe’s path into manufacturing and also wants to see more progress towards gender equity.
“Regardless of the knowledge and qualifications held by women in the industry – in trade, engineering, design, administration – many males still prefer to speak to another male when making enquiries,” she warned.
“Change is slow, regardless how much everyone wants it to happen. Having said that, when you know your stuff, have the passion, determination and have a bit of a laugh, you will succeed every time.”