Tetra Pak calls for more women to join manufacturing sector

By Kate Birch
With women making up just 21% of executive roles in the manufacturing sector, Tetra Pak highlights the need to improve gender diversity in the F&B industry

Ahead of International Women in Engineering Day on 23 June, Tetra Pak has highlighted the need to improve diversity in the manufacturing sector in order to help drive transformational change.

F&B sector issues present opportunities for women

The packaging giant, which has solid sustainability credentials and ambitious diversity targets, believes there is an opportunity for more women to join the Food & Beverage (F&B) manufacturing sector in particular, to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing the sector today – from food safety to availability and sustainability.

“Our global food systems are facing many challenges – in terms of climate change, food safety and hygiene and distribution,” says Marie Sandin, VP Engineering and Plant Automation at Tetra Pak. “We can make a difference in all of these areas, but our impact will be far more effective if we involve more women in the movement.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on critical environmental issues as well as the importance of food safety and availability and we need all hands on deck to address these evolving challenges."

According to the Swiss-headquartered company, which has more than 25,555 employees, a huge variety of skillsets are needed today to boost innovation in the food packaging industry. These skillsets range from mechanical and automation engineering to microbiology and food science.

I see an opportunity for women to enter the food science discipline and make an impact,” says Tetra Pak Food Science Lead in USA & Canada Abigail Dagadu. “Drawing from my own experience, my role is to look for innovative solutions to some of the world's most important issues today: from food insecurity and famine to metabolic diseases, like obesity and diabetes, it's a chance to drive real societal change, and I would encourage all young women with STEM qualifications to consider a career in the F&B industry."

Lack of women in manufacturing sector

According to the World Economic Forum's Gender Gap report, women make up only a third of roles in the manufacturing sector, dropping to just 21% at a senior executive level.

And Tetra Pak recognises that despite increased efforts itself as a company in this area, it has not seen the progress it had hoped for.

In 2017, when just 24% of Tetra Pak’s employees at middle management level were female, the company created a gender advisory panel of 15 men and women across the business to tackle cultural issues and develop an action plan.

With a specific focus on closing gaps in the area of women in leadership and providing growth opportunities for all, the company managed to achieve a 14% rise in women in top management positions in 2020 with “the percentage of women hires trending up and the participation of women in learning high”, according to the company’s 2020 Sustainability report.

But while the company said it was “seeing the number of women in our talent pools slowly growing”, it recognised that work is still needed to bring about a step change, “not least as the talent pool of women in sciences generally remains small”.

Recognising that the manufacturing industries have not always been the most attractive career choice for women, owing to the stereotypes and legacies of this heavily male-dominated sector, Laurence Mott, Executive VP, Development and Engineering at Tetra Pak, said that now there was a “brilliant opportunity for more diversity and for female innovators to help protect our global food supply chains for generations to come”.

He adds: "We have a number of women in leadership roles across Automation and Digital, Programme Management, Systems Engineering and Materials and Packaging, and our Future Talent graduate programme is helping usher in the next generation of female engineers and leaders, - but we can still do more. The success of a company depends not only on the competence of its people but also the diversity within."

Tetra Pak supports International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), 23 June, an international initiative celebrating the work and achievements of female engineers. The day provides an important opportunity to raise the profile of women in innovation and highlight the amazing career opportunities available.

Tetra Pak’s ESG goals

Founded in 1951, the Swiss-headquartered company has more than 24,000 employees and provides products to more than 175 different countries. With operations at scale and with packaging its business, being socially responsible and sustainable is crucial and the company.

Having published its annual sustainability report since 2004, in 2017, the company adopted Global reporting Initiative G4 guidelines for the first time in order to report on its progress on sustainability against an industry-wide standard, and in 2019, launched its new Strategy 2030 with pillars including to lead the sustainability transformation, including low-carbon circular economy solutions and enhance sustainability across the value chain.

And so far so good. IN 2019, the company was rated as a leader by CDP, making it’s a list for the fourth consecutive year, for its climate action and for driving sustainable sourcing its supply chain, as well as rating by EcoVadis in the top 1% of companies in its industry category.

The company has accelerated its efforts towards the goal of 100% recyclable packaging and was the first packaging company to launch paper straws in Europe, and the first F&B firm to offer packaging with Bonsucro-certified Chain of Custody for plant-based polymers. It has now achieved 69% of renewable energy in its operations. 


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