Over the years handmade production has become more skilled as the products have become more complex, detailed and intricate. With International Women’s Day approaching fast, Lush Manufacturing in Poole wants to celebrate the impact women have in the manufacturing sector and acknowledge their hard work and career highlights.

The manufacturing industry has historically been male dominated. According to MAKE UK, the manufacturing labour force in the UK in 2018 were 76% men and only 24% were women. At Lush Manufacturing in Poole, Dorset the percentage was 51% men and 49% women in 2019.

"We have always prided ourselves on being an equal opportunity employer," says Liz Smith, manufacturing director at Lush. "It's not just about employing equal numbers of males and females, and trying to appeal to both, it’s ensuring that every employee has an equal opportunity to develop within the business. We have tried to create a culture that’s redefined the stereotype of what a 'Manufacturing' environment is and provide a working environment that women want to join and become part of the team."

Make UK’s findings also indicate that women remain underrepresented at senior, and in particular board level. Lush is happy to buck this trend, with four out of seven of the UK Lush Manufacturing Directors identifying as female.

WATCH: MM's International Women's Day Live Panel

Mo Constantine (pictured) co-founded Lush in 1995 with six others and has been involved in the creation and manufacture of innovative beauty products for the past 25 years. Mo specialises in inventing solid, unpreserved and unpackaged products and was granted her first patent in 1988 for the invention of the resoundingly popular solid shampoo bar. Mo has created some of the most memorable and creative products, the most famous being the world’s first bath bomb. Mo also invented the first pourable soap base together with chemist Stan Krysztal, and then took it one step further and reformulated a palm oil free soap base.

My career began 40 years ago," she says. "It was a natural step from product invention to overseeing the method, equipment and training required. It began in my shed, moving into a small local unit and gradually expanding in 15 local premises and then further expansion around the world. I’m so fortunate to have worked with a great team throughout so we can continue to cover all bases. This is due to the commitment, experience and knowledge in the field."

More stories from the shopfloor:

Makeup and Toothy Tabs Department Manager Emoke Racz is Hungarian, was born in Romania (Transylvania) and moved to the UK in 2014. She speaks both Hungarian and Romanian with English being her third language:

“When I joined Lush as a Christmas Temp, I was scared that my chance to develop and the number of roles I would be able to fulfill would be limited because of the lack of knowledge I had in manufacturing. My opinion completely changed from the first day, as I was taught everything precisely and I received all the support I needed. I then took the opportunity to not just stick to the level I was comfortable at, but I started climbing my career ladder.”

“To all women being interested in a career in manufacturing: Just go ahead! There is always something for everyone and don’t be afraid of change and challenge yourself.”

Niki Aranyi, Ballistics Department Manager at Lush Manufacturing says: “When I started in this department there were only a handful of women working here, so to think one day I would become the person managing it seemed impossible. I’ve always been very ambitious but I had to start from the very bottom and that was to even be able to communicate in English. I worked very hard, I guess my managers along the way saw something in me and even though I made a lot of mistakes, and there were points when I felt I just wanted to give up, someone always helped to point me in the right direction. I will always be grateful for that.”

Ewa Wlodarczyk is currently the Gifts Department Manager and will soon be managing the Soaps department: “I will never stop learning about this business – and this is the most rewarding thing. My advice is to believe in yourself, be open to challenges and don’t be scared of new opportunities and I’m sure shortly I will read a story about you.”

Liz Smith, Lush Manufacturing Director: “I started at Lush back in 1998 and have always been surrounded by strong, passionate, inspiring women. Initially employed as a receptionist, this quickly developed into a support role for our export markets as I preferred to help and do rather than take a message. At that stage we only had four countries we were exporting to. As the business grew, so did my role and knowledge, from organising logistics, orders, forecasting, invoicing etc. It was a case of rolling your sleeves up and mucking in. Gender wasn’t an issue as it’s about a flexible, can-do attitude. I prided myself on being able to pick a pallet of stock quicker than most of the males in the warehouse! I was later given the challenge of supporting our UK stores and establishing a multilingual customer service team. Never saying no to an opportunity or challenge and wanting the best for the business has led me to where I am today. With so many opportunities and highlights, I can honestly say a stand out for me was being able to tell my mum that I had been made a Director when I was 30.”