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Women in Leeds: manufacturing by example

Most cities promote their economic strongsuits as draws for conferencing and events. ConferenceLeeds decided to run a campaign highlighting women achievers, and one leader in particular, in the city’s key manufacturing sector:

ConferenceLeeds is celebrating the city’s growing manufacturing sector by profiling women in the industry.

According to the latest ONS data, the gender split in manufacturing is 76% men and 24% women.

Victoria Hopkins’ career is one success story highlighted in the centenary year since women were granted the right to vote.

Hopkins is managing director and third generation custodian of Hopkins Catering Equipment, manufacturers of commercial catering equipment.

She says: “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 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 It is so incredibly diverse and we need to expel the outdated views that I believe a lot of women have about the industry – that the jobs are in a factory, low paid and monotonous.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.”

Hopkins 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.”

For more information on ConferenceLeeds’ manufacturing sector, please visit www.visitleeds.co.uk/conferences/Manufacturing.