The ‘Your life’ campaign, launched today (May 7) is supported by educators, industry and government and aims to encourage more women and girls to consider education and courses in STEM subjects.
By doing this and promoting the food and drink industry as an attractive option, the food and drink sector could boost the careers of young women, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) claimed.
“I am delighted that food and drink will be contributing to the national aspirations to double the number of women studying engineering and technology degrees at undergraduate level by 2030 and boost the number of women pursuing careers in engineering and technology,” FDF director general Melanie Leech said.
Nearly 8,000 food and drink businesses
“Following today’s launch we will champion the pledge with the 7,700 food and drink businesses in the UK to increase the numbers of women involved in food science and engineering,” she added.
20% of food and drink businesses reported skills gaps, particularly in science and engineering roles. Women were being under-represented in the sector – 34% of the workforce versus an all industries average of 46%, according to the FDF. As a result, there was a clear need to attract highly skilled, talented women to meet future demand, Leech claimed.
Despite steady industry growth, an ageing workforce meant that between 2010 and 2020 food and drink businesses will need to recruit 170,300 individuals, the FDF claims.
KP Snacks is one of the businesses involved in the initiative. The snack food manufacturer’s marketing innovation manager, Jess Templeton, said it was “vital” that future generations were attracted to STEM subjects.
“It’s important to encourage more women to pursue STEM careers as part of an overall initiative to ensure that the UK continues to produce world class talent and remains at the forefront of all technological advancements,” she added. “As these are areas that women don’t traditionally consider as career choices, it is vital to provide information and support to attract talents that may otherwise slip through the net.”
Education minister Elizabeth Truss said rising numbers of people were taking mathematics and physics A-levels – but it was still very low.
“Too many teenagers, especially girls, don’t realise that math and physics get you everywhere,” she added.
“They have the highest earnings and can open doors to careers in business, journalism, technology, engineering – in fact anything you can probably think of.”
Truss added that she was pleased to see some of the UK’s top businesses and organisations showing their commitment by signing the ‘Your Life’ call to action and committing to recruit more science and mathematics students.
“Together we can ensure young people have the skills they need to succeed in life and help the UK compete on a global scale,” she claimed.
The FDF’s director of regulatory, science and health, Barbara Gallani was named as one of the top 100 leading scientists. View our gallery to find out out who else made the list.
Meanwhile, click here to view our gallery of women that have risen to the top of food and drink businesses.