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Why Aren’t Manufacturers Hiring More Women?

Posted By Paul Tate, March 28, 2013 at 3:05 AM, in Category: Next-Generation Leadership and the Changing Workforce

Despite the U.S. manufacturing sector helping to lead economic recovery and adding over half a million new jobs over the last three years, the number of women in U.S. manufacturing employment has actually fallen by 18,000 over the same period.

According to a new report by the National Women’s Law Center, women lost manufacturing jobs faster than men during the recession, but have regained them slower than men during the recovery.

The increasing automation of factory functions may be part of the reason. Many previously female-popular roles are now partially or fully automated – not just front-line assembly jobs on the plant floor, but other roles such as quality control and back room clerical positions.

Three manufacturing sectors stand out as especially difficult for aspiring female employees right now – fabricated metal products, machinery and tools, and transportation equipment. In these sectors, women’s employment has declined more than twice as much as men’s since 2008.

These latest figures also appear to be part of a longer-term trend, notes the report. Around a third of manufacturing workers (32.2%) were female back in the early 1990s, but in 2012 that figure dropped to 27.3% - the lowest proportion since 1971.

What can be done? The report strongly advocates more equal opportunity for women in both manufacturing education and employment opportunities and calls on the U.S. government, community organizations, educational centers and labor unions to actively work together to promote women in manufacturing occupations.

What’s happening in your company? Are you seeking a better balance between male and female workers?

Is this just a U.S. trend, or is this also happening in other manufacturing economies around the world?

What do you think are the main barriers for the future of women in global manufacturing?

Written by Paul Tate

Paul Tate is Research Director and Executive Editor with Frost & Sullivan's Manufacturing Leadership Council. He also directs the Manufacturing Leadership Council's Board of Governors, the Council's annual Critical Issues Agenda, and the Manufacturing Leadership Research Panel. Follow us on Twitter: @MfgExecutive


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