A MAJOR initiative which aims to encourage the district's young people to consider manufacturing as a career is spotlighting leading women within the industry.

It is hoped the move will tempt more girls to explore employment opportunities in the still male-dominated sector.

Latest research shows that whilst women make-up 47 per cent of the overall UK jobs market, within manufacturing and engineering the figure is just 23 per cent.

Nine per cent are engineers, and only five per cent hold management positions.

Among those featuring in the new campaign – spearheaded by Bradford Manufacturing Week – is Diana Scholefield, managing director of Keighley-based GESIPA.

She joined the Dalton Lane rivets manufacturer in 1995, as a project engineer.

And working her way up through the ranks, she became MD in 2014.

"Being a woman in manufacturing and engineering can be challenging as it is such a male-dominated environment," said Diana.

"I've had many hurdles to overcome over the years, in particular around proving myself to my peers.

"But as more women join the sector the gap is getting smaller and with female role models at the helm of a raft of successful manufacturing businesses, we have a responsibility to encourage more young people – and particularly young women – in."

During Bradford Manufacturing Week, which starts on October 8, GESIPA will be opening its doors to young people with the aim of inspiring career choices based around STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – subjects.

Diana adds: "At GESIPA we actively encourage girls to look at STEM subjects and careers by hosting and supporting initiatives.

"Bradford Manufacturing Week is a perfect way to facilitate this process and further educate young people about the diverse roles and opportunities in this district – and beyond.

"We'd love to see the week become a national event that can be embraced outside of West Yorkshire because this is the way we future-proof the pipeline of talented young people coming into our industry."

Another company backing the week is air management expert Mansfield Pollard, which is offering site tours, work experience days and talks.

It breaks the industry mould in terms of gender balance, with 60 per cent of its board made-up of women.

The firm – which has seen record growth in the past year – is headed-up by managing director, Joanna Robinson.

"A diverse and inclusive workforce is crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that drive innovation," she said.

"As one of few women in the industry, I believe I have a responsibility to promote career opportunities for both sexes and in particular I hope that my example helps inspire other women to pursue careers in manufacturing.

"Being involved with initiatives such as Bradford Manufacturing Week gives us the chance to speak to the young people in our community and inspire them to follow in our footsteps."

Around 75 schools are due to take part in the week, whose main sponsor is Barclays.

More than 1,000 teenage students are already signed-up.

The concept for the venture was launched earlier this year by Nick Garthwaite, president of Bradford Chamber and managing director of international chemicals and detergents manufacturer, Christeyns.

He said: "To make Bradford Manufacturing Week a success we need all manufacturers to open their doors and help us to inspire, excite and engage young people in an industry which keeps our sector thriving.

"Young men and women are key to securing the future of our industry and there is a very clear need for gifted young manufacturers and those wanting to support the sector through roles such as accounting, marketing or HR.

"We are particularly delighted that Bradford Manufacturing Week is providing a platform for some of the country's most influential and inspiring female leaders to take the spotlight and showcase the career opportunities available.

"It is proven that a diverse workforce performs better, and having a healthy gender balance is crucial for the manufacturing sector.

"As international businesses, GESIPA and Mansfield Pollard set a great example for young people, not just in our district but across the nation.

"This may be the inaugural year for Bradford Manufacturing Week but we are confident that with such fantastic support it will be embraced across the country from next year, and together we can change the face of the future of manufacturing in the UK."