WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP Pharma | Mining | Built Environment | Packaging Female representation in the heavy industries In celebration of International Women's Day Chad Harrison International investigates female representation in the heavy industries and what can be done to achieve gender parity at C-Suite level. Download whitepaper Share this story

Chad Harrison investigates the role of women in the heavy industries

In celebration of International Women’s day Chad Harrison International looks at the landscape of senior management roles held by women and what can be done to improve the situation.

Since 2000, the number of female leaders in politics, excluding monarchs and figureheads has more than doubled. However, of the 193 UN member states, the current number of female leaders is nine heads of state and eight heads of government. This is far from equal and 100 years on from women achieving the vote in the UK, there is still much work to do.

How is this reflected in the business world and what needs to change to ensure more women reach the top of the organogram?

Women in business

Client opinion

Ambition is not the only factor

Svetlana is a Senior Executive at a multi-national chemical company. She has progressed within the industry holding numerous positions of seniority. Here, she provides her expert opinion on female representation in the chemical sector and what can be done to achieve equality.

What is preventing women from entering the sector?

The field of chemical engineering has been dominated by men over decades. The industry – while it is working on embracing diversity and inclusion – is still rather conservative when it comes to embracing women leaders from various backgrounds outside of engineering.

What obstacles are there in breaking through the glass ceiling?

Hiring and candidate selection policies is one reason, in my opinion – first and foremost, engineers are being recruited, not necessarily leaders with proven track record, no matter the industry or the diploma they happen to have in their past.

Also, industries that seem to have plant construction or dangerous goods associated with them seem to be more men dominated – historically. In addition, the Boards of companies like mine are predominantly male – there may be a potential unrecognized bias when it comes to promoting leaders to the highest positions.

Women in leadership

"It's a variety of factors, but primarily it's the male dominance of the sector"

Women in engineering

"Brag about the achievements - in the right way, in the right way, to the right people."

What are the personal attributes required to achieve progression?

I would say leadership – that is what I would put as a cornerstone, and strong track record of results achievement. Although it seems, in this industry, the subject matter expertise is being valued very high as well. I come from a completely different industry, so my engineering knowledge is not that deep – it will be interesting to see what I am going to be able to achieve.

What advice would you give to women starting in the sector?

Don’t be distracted unnecessarily by the fact that you may be one of the few women around, be a great leader and achieve consistent results. Don’t shy away from taking on additional responsibilities that benefit the whole company.

And brag about the achievements – in the right way, in the right environment, to the right people, at the right time. This is important – to talk about what we’ve achieved, and not just for us to talk ourselves up, but win other champions on all levels in the organization to recognize our successes and achievements.

“There is no perfect fit when you’re looking for the next big thing to do. You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around. The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.”

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO

The number of women in C-suite level senior roles tops out at 24%. One-third of global businesses have no women in senior management roles.

Women in Life Sciences

Women are scarce in scientific research and development. Globally, 28.8% of those employed in the sector are women. Women are also more likely to leave Scientific, technological, engineering and maths (STEM) careers than men.

In the European Union, women are slowly closing the gap and in 2016 40.1% of scientists and engineers were women.

Only 12.2% of women hold board-level positions.

Employed in scientific research

Board representation

Leave rates

How can we operate better?

After analysing the statistics and hearing real-life examples, what can be done to improve equality in the workplace? A report by Catalyst.org found that women get fewer of the ‘hot jobs’ required to advance in the workplace.

Highly visible, mission-critical roles and international experiences are hallmarks of ‘hot jobs’ and often lead to career advancement. Catalyst concluded that women get fewer of these opportunities and as a result, it hampers their progression.


Lean In is an organisation promoting the empowerment of women in the workplace. It is committed to helping women achieve their ambitions. A recent campaign is aimed at recommending men in senior positions commit to mentoring women.

Mentoring is critical to the success of women across industries and people with mentors are more likely to get promoted. Astonishingly, women are 24% less likely than men to get advice from senior leaders. Interestingly, by mentoring women organisations benefit from diverse leadership which results in higher profits.

Women are often excluded

Commit to equal access

Make sure the women you work with get equal access to opportunities.

Women have fewer sponsors

Advocate for a woman

Put women’s names forward for stretch assignments and promotions