Hi-tech LED manufacturer Oxley Group has become one of the first companies to sign a new charter demanding greater gender balance in the UK defence sector.

The Ulverston headquartered company signed the Women in Defence Charter at the Defence and Security Equipment International Exhibition 2019, which takes place in London this week.

Signatories commit to driving inclusion and diversity in their companies and provide fair opportunities for women to succeed.

More than half of Oxley Group’s 200-strong workforce are women.

Group chief executive Darren Cavan said the company – which designs and manufactures LED lighting, night vision products and electronic components for military aircraft and vehicles – actively promotes career opportunities from board director to department and team leaders.

“Oxley Group has for decades consistently employed a high proportion of women, and from the outset has been an enthusiastic and committed supporter of gender balance initiatives,” he said.

“We support and value all of our workforce, but we recognise that women face challenges within the traditionally male-dominated defence and aerospace sectors and offer particular encouragement to women entering our industry and building careers within it.

“Our business is on track to double its turnover within a five-year period. It will be impossible to achieve that target without initiatives like the Women in Defence Charter to encourage more women to succeed within our industry.”

Oxley Group is already a signatory of the Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter, which have the same aim as the Charter.

Hannah McGarry is one example of someone who has taken advantage of opportunities in the sector, and with the company.

Ms McGarry left Dowdales School in Dalton and worked as a hairdresser before joining the product assembly team at Oxley Group.

Since then she has, with the help of the company, completed levels two and three of an engineering apprenticeship, picked up a BTEC in electrical engineering and technical support, retaken Maths, English and ICT GCSEs and completed further computer software courses.

She is currently in the final year of an HNC (Higher National Certificate) and hopes to start her HND (Higher National Diploma).

“When I left school I could not envisage creating a career within aerospace or defence – it simply was not on my radar, and there was very little information to demonstrate the exciting opportunities for women within engineering,” said Ms McGarry.

“That has to change, and I am proud to be working within Oxley Group and to be part of the process to encourage more women to take up the challenge of building careers in defence and aerospace businesses.”