Women encompass almost half of the U.S. labor force, yet only 29 percent work in manufacturing. In comparison, more than 74 percent make up the education and health services sector. So, why is the percentage of women in manufacturing so low? How can we improve those numbers to benefit from the advantages women bring to the workplace?
Why Gender Diversity in Manufacturing Is Low
One of the reasons why gender diversity in manufacturing — as well as other sectors, like construction and mining — is so low is because of outdated perceptions and misconceptions.
Even for women that do join the manufacturing workforce, many leave — although a 2015 study found that more than two-thirds would stay if starting their career today. Some of the reasons women resign includie:
- Poor workplace relationships
- Lack of promotion opportunities
- Lower pay than male colleagues
Statistics gathered from women in manufacturing also show that more than 70 percent believe there is a pay gap, with 100 percent feeling iit favors their male co-workers. The Pew Research Center confirmed this belief, finding in 2015 that women earned 83 percent of what men did.
How to Encourage Gender Diversity in Manufacturing
Encouraging gender diversity in manufacturing is essential. Why? More than 500,000 jobs within manufacturing remain underfilled. Many companies are understaffed because there’s a lack of qualified applicants, which puts a strain on their operations and staff.
This problem is only going to increase. By 2025, 2.7 million baby boomers will retire from their manufacturing positions, which will leave an opening of 2 million jobs. This number will only increase as more baby boomers retire.
While some manufacturers are combatting the issue by offering phased-in retirements, it’s only a temporary fix. What companies need to start doing is taking a proactive approach, such as by encouraging women to join and commit to the industry.
A few ways to increase the percentage of women in manufacturing include:
- Boost the visibility of female leaders
- Offer flexible work practices
- Create opportunities for challenging projects
- Develop mentorship programs
- Promote a work-life balance
- Remove or minimize the gender pay gap
- Provide attractive pay and benefits
Taking a proactive approach is a proven way to boost gender diversity in manufacturing and other industries.
Why Manufacturing Benefits From Hiring Women
Women bring several benefits to the workplace,i with a diverse company having the following advantages:
- Balance to organizational management
- Various perspectives during decision-making
- Innovative and creative approach and solutions
- Better financial performance
How to Encourage Young Women to Choose Manufacturing
While you can enhance what your company offers to potential employees, it’s also vital to promote the opportunities and benefits of a manufacturing career with the next generation. Some of the ways you can boost the future statistics of women in manufacturing include:
- Mentor: Offer an internship or apprenticeship program.
- Host: Partner with local schools and colleges to offer a tour of your plant or host a Manufacturing Day™ event.
- Sponsor: Lend your support to a local FIRST® team, which encourages STEM engagement among youth.
- Support: Contribute or donate to STEM-based programs oir scholarships in your area.
- Empower: Share the stories of successful women in manufacturing, from welders to company executives.
With time and dedication, the manufacturing industry can boost its gender diversity. By bringing more women into the workplace, and thus improving statistics about women in manufacturing, the market can resolve its understaffing issues, as well as make a statement on the gender pay and skill gap in STEM careers.