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How to Secure the Future of US Manufacturing

U.S. manufacturing is still facing a crisis and women are the solution for it.

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According to a 2019 report by Gallup, more than two million workers are needed to fill manufacturing jobs in the aerospace, defense, automotive and processing industries, among others. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2017 that women accounted for 47 percent of total employees of the U.S. workforce, but only represented 30 percent of it in manufacturing.  


According to a Deloitte study of 600 women in manufacturing, women leave or simply ignore work opportunities in manufacturing because of:  

  • Unattractive pay/income: 41% 
  • Lack of promotion opportunities: 41% 
  • Poor working relationships: 39% 
  • Lack of work-life balance: 37% 
  • Lack of challenging assignments: 36%  

The study also reported how gender diversity within manufacturing improves innovation, growth, overall job performance, and profitability.  

So, in what ways can manufacturers focus their recruiting efforts on educating, attracting, and retaining more women into their businesses? Change internal culture so women feel welcome.

Changing Internal Culture

To start, manufacturers need to change things internally. Women need to see clear paths of advancement, a chance at equal pay and work-life balance opportunities.

Companies can accomplish these ideas using several methods. For one, they can clearly define measurements of success with weekly, monthly and yearly performance reviews. They can also recognize women for their accomplishments in company announcements and offer compensation increases with promotions and good performance evaluations. Making compensation wages public also provides transparency for equal pay across genders.

A healthy work-life balance can be achieved with flex hours, paid daycare options, and extended maternity leave. Some companies have also incorporated wellness challenges that encourage employees to work together to improve healthy eating habits and exercise.

Identify & Increase Role Models & Mentor Visibility

As companies recruit more female employees, they need a strategy to nurture them. Identifying and increasing visibility of women leaders within the company helps female employees connect with one another and feel a part of the group. In turn, this helps increase their job performance and overall contribution to the company’s goals.

Another good opportunity for manufacturers to connect female employees to role models and mentors is through organizations within the industry, such as Women in Manufacturing (WIM), Women of Today’s Manufacturing (WOTM), and Influential Women In Manufacturing (IWIM). These organizations provide a support system for women as well as a network to help gain confidence within the industry.

Expose Younger Generations to Innovations & Technology

Younger generations value making a difference within the world, especially among millennials. Millennials are confident, ambitious, and achievement-oriented individuals who have high expectations of their employers, seek new challenges at work and are not afraid to questioning authority. However, most millennials are unaware of manufacturing's benefits and positive economic impact.

Manufacturers can attract and recruit younger generations by:

  • Providing hands-on internships and apprenticeships that challenge their critical thinking and allow them to collaborate with industry experts.
  • Visiting area schools and events that focus on engineering and manufacturing. For example, a company can sponsor a robotics team or engineering group and provide tools, components or simply expert advice and guidance. 
  • Inviting students for facility tours so they can see how products are designed and manufactured on the shop floor.
  • Introducing students to customers that can share stories on how certain products have made a positive impact on society.

I also encourage you to join me for an upcoming discussion on why women are the future of U.S. manufacturing. I am moderating the Live Panel Discussion: Women in Manufacturing live stream panel hosted by the Women of Today’s Manufacturing (WOTM) on Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at 8:30 am CST. The panelists include:

  • Penny Bauer, co-owner of Uniwest Enterprises, a Rockford, IL company that serves the machine tool industry. 
  • Joie Vittetow, intern engineer at TAC Rockford/Transatlantic Connection, a machine tool product and engineering services company.
  • Hannah Hines, student in Rock Valley College's Aviation Maintenance Technology Program.
  • Toni Baumann, costume designer at the Rock Valley College Theater Shop. 

My panelists will discuss what attracted them to manufacturing; why they selected it as a career pathway; and their thoughts on why women are the solution to the U.S. manufacturing crisis. Register here

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