News & Events

Friday 18 September, 2015

Manufacturing Mythbusting - How we can challenge girls' perceptions of the industry

It’s no secret the manufacturing sector is suffering from skills shortages across Europe, and one serious gap is the low number of women in the industry. In the UK for instance, women make up just 30% of the food and drink manufacturing industry and, even more worryingly, only 7% of engineering professionals.  

At Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), we want to confront these figures rather than cross our fingers and hope for change.  

A gender balanced workforce means diversity of ideas, thinking and experience across our business, which leads to enhanced ways of working and ultimately to better decision-making. That’s why we aspire to have a minimum of 40% of women in both management and leadership grades by 2025. 

So what role can businesses actually play to attract more women into manufacturing? Well, for a start we need to knock down negative perceptions often held by young people about this sector, which can prevent them from pursuing a career in manufacturing. From this perspective, recent campaigns such as #ILookLikeAnEngineer are absolutely brilliant.

There are three key myths which I’d like to challenge more specifically (based on European data)

Myth 1: nothing really gets made in Europe anymore

This is simply not true. Although it has fallen since its peak, manufacturing still makes up approximately 15% of output in Europe – no small amount! At CCE, almost 90% of our drinks are produced in the country in which they’re sold and we’re very proud of that. 

Myth 2: manufacturing jobs are low skilled with low pay

Manufacturing is dogged by a reputation of low skill and low pay amongst its workforce. In truth, monthly earnings for manufacturing employees are actually 5% higher than the general average in the EU.  

Myth 3: manufacturing is an unstable career choice

This is a commonly held belief but manufacturing jobs are actually now more stable and better paid on average than in other sectors of the economy.

So, how can we bust these myths?

Clearly, businesses can’t act alone – the role of governments, and the EU, is vital. But while we can’t be the whole solution, we can certainly be part of it.

I believe giving more young people first-hand insight into the manufacturing process is one easy thing that business can do. At CCE, we’ve invested $11 million in our education programme across Europe since 2011, and reached 130,000 young people last year alone. The programme includes 8 Education Centres at our major facilities, taking students behind the scenes of the manufacturing process. In doing so, we aim to boost their knowledge of modern manufacturing, make connections between what they learn in school and our state-of-the-art operations and help develop the soft skills that are so important for their employability.

In several territories, we’ve also set specific targets for girls – in the UK, for example, we’ve committed to double the number of girls we welcome to our factories this year.

It’s also important to closely monitor the way businesses recruit. This is why we’ve launched a brand new recruitment marketing campaign – My Time Is Now – designed to encourage women to think differently about their careers. We’ve also set clear goals. In the UK, last year 60% of our graduates and 30% of our apprentices recruited into our Manufacturing and Engineering teams were women. Across our territories, 57% of our Supply Chain graduates in 2015 are women.

Getting an even gender split in manufacturing won't happen overnight, and it won't be easy, but this is even more reason for businesses to get proactively involved. Ultimately, a balanced environment - and an influx of new skills and talent - is worth fighting for.  


Maria Kokkinou

Chief Diversity Officer and Talent Acquisition Director

Maria Kokkinou is Chief Diversity Officer and Talent Acquisition Director for Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), being responsible for positioning CCE as an employer of choice.

Previously, she worked as Group Talent Manager for Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company, leading leadership development and talent management. She has also worked at UBS Investment Bank and Citigroup, where she led resourcing teams across EMEA. She started her career at Deloitte where she spent six years in the Human Capital Advisory team.

Maria holds an MSc in Human Resources Management from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a BSc in Business Administration from the Athens University of Economics and Business.

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