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Study: Women Are Becoming More Positive About Manufacturing Careers

Posted By Jeff Moad, May 05, 2017 at 11:23 AM, in Category: Next-Generation Leadership and the Changing Workforce

105.jpgEmployers and educators have made measureable progress over the past two years in attracting, recruiting, and retaining women to work in the manufacturing industry. But, as a recent study by Deloitte, the Manufacturing Institute, and APICS shows, a great deal more needs to be done to forge company cultures that prioritize and benefit from gender diversity.

The report emphasizes that it is important for manufacturing companies to achieve greater gender diversity for a couple of reasons. Companies with more women in leadership roles benefit from a greater diversity of ideas and, ultimately, enjoy greater return on equity. In addition,  in light of a looming manufacturing workforce shortage, women represent a great, untapped resource. The study notes that, while women represent 47% of the U.S. labor force, they represent just 29% of the manufacturing workforce.

“Given that women are underrepresented in manufacturing, and the argument to increase the industry’s fair share of female talent is persuasive, one thing is certain: Manufacturing companies likely need a different approach to recruiting, retaining, and advancing women in the workplace,” the study states.

The study, based on a survey of 600 women in manufacturing and interviews with individual female manufacturing workers, shows that manufacturers and educators, in fact, have been doing a somewhat better job of attracting women to the manufacturing workforce and retaining them. Forty-two percent of current female manufacturing workers surveyed said they would encourage their daughters and other female family members to pursue manufacturing careers. That compares to just 24% that said so in a comparable 2015 survey.

Also, 29% of respondents said the school system actively or somewhat encourages females to pursue manufacturing careers. That was up from 12% who said so in 2015.

Overall, 58% of respondents said they have noticed a positive change over the past five years in their industries’ attitudes toward female professionals.

Still, the study points to significant room for improvement. Seventy-one percent of the respondents said performance standards are not equal between men and women in manufacturing, and 87% holding that opinion said standards are higher for women.

Even those who believe unequal standards are applied to men and women see some progress, however. Forty-two percent of them said the pay gap between men and women has been significantly or moderately reduced over the past five years.

And 72% of women surveyed said they believe women are still underrepresented in their company’s leadership team.

Meanwhile only 15% of respondents said the manufacturing industry is very accepting of family / personal commitments and allows employees to meet these commitments without impairing their careers.

This is significant, the report notes, because women—particularly those in the Gen X and Gen Y demographic groups—place a high priority on work/life balance when making career choices. Other top considerations for those segments of the female workforce include pay/income and access to challenging/interesting work.

Based on interviews with female workers, the study recommended several steps that manufacturing companies and leaders can take to advance gender diversity and inclusion:

  • Company leaders should set clear diversity goals and lead by example;
  • Manufacturing leaders should address diversity issues such as work-life balance and unequal pay visibly and directly in order to change the culture;
  • Leaders must emphasize organizational accountability to drive a diverse culture, using analytics, for example, to assess progress;
  • Companies should emphasize professional development to increase retention of female employees;
  • Leaders should foster an inclusive culture that includes diverse teams at all levels of the organization;
  • Companies should enhance their brands by taking steps to associate it with aspirational attributes such as inclusion, a step that will make it easier to recruit women;
  • Companies should work in their communities to improve the image of manufacturing careers.

Written by Jeff Moad

Jeff Moad is Research Director and Executive Editor with the Manufacturing Leadership Community. He also directs the Manufacturing Leadership Awards Program. Follow our LinkedIn Groups: Manufacturing Leadership Council and Manufacturing Leadership Summit

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