All of Britain's top manufacturers now have women on their boards but more must be done to end male dominance in the sector.
Manufacturers' organisation EEF found women hold one in five directorships at FTSE 100 manufacturing firms but dismissed calls for quotas to be introduced to boost the number.
Its Women in Manufacturing report suggests nurturing young talent and shedding the industry of its "dirty and unglamorous" image is the best way to transform the boardroom and work must be done with schools to encourage girls to study science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects, the organisation recommends.
EEF chief executive Terry Scuoler said: "The message from this report is clear – manufacturers are heading in the right direction, but cannot afford to let up. We are matching other industries for female board representation, but there is no room for complacency.
“If our sector is to continue to thrive we need to be fishing from the entire talent pool and that means ensuring women have the right skills and opportunities and are represented at every level.”
The report found that women accounted for 64 of the 305 board positions on the 28 manufacturing firms in the FTSE 100. Last year, two manufacturing companies – Croda International and Melrose Industries – had no female board representation and although both have since dropped out of the listing, they now have one female board member each, it added.
Women hold at least a quarter of the posts – a target set Labour former trade minister Lord Davies – on the boards of 36 per cent of the top firms, the report said, but introducing quotas is unlikely to be helpful.
"Many of the leading women in manufacturing are equally clear – quotas are not the answer,” said Scuoler. “They advocate evolution, not revolution, with companies continuing and improving their work to identify and nurture talented women and taking bigger strides in showing that a career in our sector is an attractive, exciting and equal opportunity for all.
"But, this isn't just about what we as manufacturers can do. The work starts in the classroom where we must see a boost in the number of young women taking Stem subjects and encouraged to raise their career expectations."