It’s no secret there aren’t an abundance of women in the manufacturing sector. However, exactly how few there are may come as a bit of a surprise. Did you know that women comprise nearly 47% of the U.S. workforce — yet they make up just 28.9% of the manufacturing labor pool?
For an industry that’s on the doorstep of a huge skills gap — experts expect 2 million of a necessary 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled over the next decade — it’s becoming obvious that women are a hugely undervalued source of untapped talent. Could closing the manufacturing gender gap also close the skills gap? Forward-thinking manufacturers are realizing it might. As they develop strategies and programs to attract more women, they’re also reaping the benefits.
Women professionals entering the workforce are highly educated, dedicated, and skilled. Deloitte, The Manufacturing Institute, and APICS conducted a survey on women in manufacturing that offers insightful results. Survey respondents believe that having women leaders in manufacturing can lead to:
- 88% more diverse perspectives in decision making
- 74% more balanced organizational management
- 84% more innovative and creative approaches and solutions
- 49% improved financial performance
The first step toward taking advantage of the benefits of a blended environment is to make the manufacturing industry more appealing and welcoming to women. Here are several ways manufacturers can be more inclusive and develop a more diverse workforce:
- Lead by example. Create a workplace culture that’s accepting of women at all levels — from the factory floor to the C-suite. Make your engagement known at work through fair policies and procedures as well as publicly through outreach programs and social media. It never hurts to celebrate female-focused accomplishments and holidays, like International Women’s Day.
- Promote equal opportunities. Women want to know they’ll have a chance to work hard and be rewarded. Always base pay and promotional opportunities on skills rather than gender.
- Develop an apprenticeship program. Create programs in which high school and college students can shadow employees in your manufacturing plant and develop solutions for real-life problems. Women in leadership positions are especially valuable, and they can act as long-term mentors for the next generation of manufacturing professionals.
- Offer flexibility for family time. Women prioritize an environment that offers a good work-life balance — and men appreciate it, too. Offering programs like maternity and paternity leave can help attract skilled and committed candidates.
- Support local youth programs. Getting youngsters, especially girls, excited about manufacturing at a young age is key. Science, technology, engineering, and math-focused (STEM) programs are commonplace in nearly every community, and they offer great opportunities for you to represent your company and engage with kids as you show them how exciting a career in manufacturing can be. Offer your support by donating supplies, sending female leaders to participate in career days and science fairs, hosting field trips for local elementary students, and even developing scholarship programs for girls.
Policies and programs like these are commonplace in other industries, and with a little extra attention, they can quickly become the norm in the manufacturing industry as well. Make sure you keep your organization ahead of the curve. By doing so, not only are you working toward closing a decades-long gender gap but you’re also bringing a new element of creativity and diversity to world of manufacturing.