Food group rejects Cameron’s quotas for women

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Justine Fosh said: "The best person for the job is the best person for the job.”
Justine Fosh said: "The best person for the job is the best person for the job.”

Related tags Drink manufacturing Drink manufacturing sector Industry

Prime minister David Cameron’s support for the idea of introducing a quota for women in top business jobs has been rejected by the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink (NSAFD).

Justine Fosh, director NSAFD, told “We don’t think quotas are the way to go. The best person for the job is the best person for the job.”

Her comments followed Cameron’s visit to the Northern Future Forum summit in Stockholm, Sweden. Speaking at the summit, Cameron said he would not “rule out quotas​” ​as a means of attracting more women into executive roles.

But he added that his preference was to “accelerate” ​the number of women on the boards of top UK firms without resorting to quotas.

BBC News quoted Cameron as saying: “If we fail to unlock the potential of women in the labour market, we're not only failing those individuals, we're failing our whole economy.”


Growing the number of women in top business roles "is not simply about equal opportunity, it's about effectiveness”,  ​he said.

Commenting on our Linkedin group The UK Food and Drink Manufacturing Network – powered by Food Manufacture​, Liz Patterson, Improve’s projects and opportunities manager, said: “No more rules please! Recruiting skilled and diverse people is a big enough issue as it is without essentially halving our talent pool.

“We need to continue to work on raising the image and attractiveness of our sector for all. I think the issue is about improving skills and education options for women to be trained up in the higher level and more technical roles required by today's food and drink sector such as engineering and management. Support from the government to do this would be more appreciated than new regulation.

To join our Linkedin debates with 1,300 other top food and drink industry professionals, click here​ or visit

Run by men, operated by women

David Winters, spokesman for NSAFD, told “Improve did some work with Cranfield university and the results published in a 2010 study showed that the food manufacturing industry is run by men but operated by women.


“There are generally more women in confectionery and bakery. That is because they are thought to be more flexible over working hours because there are still a lot of working mums.”

Men employed in the food and drink manufacturing sector account for 68% of the workforce.

Of the total manufacturing workforce of 390,000 workers, 26% are female who work full-time and 7% are female who work part-time. Male part-time workers account for 3% of the total workforce.

Higher qualification

About 19% of the total workforce holds a degree or higher qualification. Of those, 60% are men and 40% are women.

The survey of managers and senior officials in general manufacturing revealed that 71% were male and 29% were female.

Improve has predicted that the amount of men in the workforce is set to rise to 74% by 2017.

Meanwhile, the percentage of female directors in FTSE 100 companies has risen to 15% from 12.5% in 2010, according to government research.

A report commissioned by the government urged leading firms to double the number of women on boards within two years.

In Sweden, women hold 25% of boardroom posts, while in Norway, which introduced quotas in 2008, women account for 40% of top jobs.

Women in food and drink manufacturing

  • Women account for 32% of workers in the food and drink manufacturing sector.
  • Women working full-time account for 26% of the total manufacturing workforce of 390,000.
  • Women account for 29% of senior management roles.

Related topics People & Skills Bakery

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