HERE at Nifco UK, we’re immensely proud of our strong and diverse workforce, writes Mike Matthews.

As a business that has employed people in the area since the sixties, and one that - since being acquired by the Nifco Group in 1990 – has enjoyed rapid growth, we’ve created hundreds of jobs and are proud to be an employer of choice for so many local people.

At the heart of this is our commitment to being an equal opportunities employer; a business that treats every member of staff fairly and strives to ensure our employees feel fulfilled in their roles.

And at the heart of this commitment is a belief that this is a sector in which women can – and should – succeed. Traditionally, the world of manufacturing has been dominated by men, but we are seeing a sea-change with more women than ever before now entering the sector across all levels.

We have seen a surge in applications from talented females across the business in recent years – with women in strategic roles across departments including purchasing, HR and marketing and communications. And, of course, women are driving the company forward on the shop-floor too. At every level of the business, we have more and more females carving out successful careers through sheer skill, talent and hard work.

And across the automotive industry, we’re seeing women step into key roles and help drive the industry forward. That’s why I was delighted to read so many excellent stories relating to Autocar UK’s ‘Great British Women in the Car Industry’ awards last month.

For example, executive of the year Linda Jackson, CEO of Citroen, has completely overhauled the French brand since taking over in 2014 and Josephine Payne, plant manager of Ford’s engine factory in Craiova, Romania, manages a workforce of over 1,200 people, turning out over 250,000 engines a year. These are women who are changing the face of the automotive sector – showing the world that success in this sector is about talent and skill – not gender.

Linda and Josephine were also featured in a report accompanying the awards, which told the stories of ‘100 Inspirational British Women in the Automotive Sector’. As a leader of a business that employs scores of women, and someone who engages with automotive businesses around the world, I can tell you that there are hundreds and thousands of inspirational women in this industry – and each one is sending a message to the next generation, that this is a sector in which women can make their mark.

However, frustratingly – and despite their success and the increasing number of women entering the industry - there is still more that we need to do to ensure more women enter this field.

We are moving beyond the belief that this is a blue-collar industry that is about ‘muck and muscle’, and that’s great. But we must eradicate the stigma around women in engineering. This is not an industry for men – it’s an industry for ambitious, bright people – people who want a hands-on career and to be part of a vibrant business in which they can grow and challenge themselves – whatever their gender.