Breaking the Mold: Empowering Women in the Aluminium Industry

Diversity in the aluminium industry has improved over the years, but there is still more to do regarding women’s roles across the industry, particularly in technical, operational, management, or leadership roles.

A look across the global aluminium landscape and it is abundantly clear that women are pivotal to driving growth, innovation, and sustainability.

However, in what is still a male-dominated industry, more needs to be done to raise the profile of women not just within the sector, but externally also to showcase its appeal and career opportunities to women unaware of the aluminium trade.

A recent collection of interviews with women already working in the sector by the International Aluminium Institute (IAI) to coincide with International Women’s Day gave a positive image of working in the sector but also shared the modern-day challenges for the industry, such as gender imbalance, a lack of female role models, the need for female mentorship and improved promotion of the industry to make it a more appealing career choice for women.

Those interviewed also spoke about how the aluminium industry has improved over many years but emphasised that more needs to be done to enhance women’s participation across the industry.

As a prominent voice for the global aluminium sector, the IAI is taking a proactive stance, with Pernelle Nunez, its Deputy Secretary General and Director of Sustainability, playing a key role by establishing its Women in Aluminium initiative.

The overarching aims of the Women in Aluminium initiative are to create an open, sector-wide informal network for women in the global aluminium industry. The main objectives of the initiative are to:

  1. Provide a forum for women in the aluminium industry to connect, exchange experiences, discuss opportunities and challenges and develop their professional network.
  2. Promote the employment, development and advancement of women in the aluminium industry.
  3. Longer term, utilise the powerful collective voice of women in the industry to encourage a diverse pipeline of future talent.

This is part of a high-level action plan by the IAI that focuses on raising the profile of the initiative, building industry support and encouraging women from across the aluminium value chain to connect through industry events and online platforms. In addition, the IAI will conduct a survey to better understand future needs and what would add value in this space.

Pernelle explained: “There are lots of talented women across the sector, but finding the opportunities and support to have them advance to the most senior levels in the industry remains a huge challenge. We are yet to see any notable shift in the leadership positions across the industry despite compelling evidence about the benefits a diverse team can bring to businesses.”

While Pernelle stressed there may not be a notable shift, there is a tangible sea of change this year, with wider recognition across the industry that more needs to be done to attract more women and also recognise those in it.

Sandrine Duquerroy-Delesalle, Crown Holdings’ Sustainability & External Affairs Director EMEA, is another high-profile woman advocating that more needs to be done, particularly when it comes to promoting women in leadership roles, to making aluminium enterprises an appealing option for women to join the industry.

“The aluminium industry is probably not promoting – and certainly not featuring – enough successful women at key positions to ensure it attracts young women,” she said.

“Showcasing successful women who have made significant contributions to the aluminium industry can inspire and motivate other women to pursue careers in the sector.

“We also need to implement leadership development and mentoring programmes in our companies specifically for women, which will provide them with the necessary skills and opportunities for career progression.”

IAI members have already taken a lead in developing initiatives to encourage women’s participation.

Rania Tayeh, Senior Manager – Corporate Social Responsibility at Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA), spoke at the recent Women in Aluminium event in London and said, “at EGA we know that diversity drives business performance, and is also good for society.  The UAE is one of few countries in the world where more women than men graduate in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. EGA runs STEM engagement programmes to encourage talented young women to pursue degrees and careers in these fields as part of our much wider work to promote gender diversity in our workforce.”

“Increasing gender diversity is an important aspect of sustainability. Many of the challenges we face are shared with other heavy industries. This is why EGA has also led the development of a forum for leading industrial companies in the UAE to drive faster progress together on this opportunity.”

There are notable ways that this is being addressed by other organisations within the industry – that all have one common goal. The industry’s media are also aware that more needs to be done and it is using its influence to further enhance and celebrate the impact of women.

This year’s Aluminium World Trade Fair in October will see the very first ‘Women With Metal – ALUMINIUM awards’. The awards not only aim to recognise the achievements of women in the aluminium industry but also contribute to raising awareness about the skilled labour shortage and promoting innovative solutions.

By encouraging women to establish themselves in the aluminium industry, the shortage of qualified professionals can be addressed, and the industry’s competitiveness can be strengthened.

The sector has woken up and realised it is no longer just about words, but there is a need for noticeable actions on a global scale. Given that, the future for women in the aluminium industry holds immense promise.

As the global demand for aluminium continues to rise, so too does the need for a diverse and skilled workforce. By harnessing the talents and perspectives of women, the industry can drive innovation, improve efficiency, and enhance sustainability efforts.