As we move through the 4th Industrial Revolution, rapid technological advances are transforming modern manufacturing in a fundamental way. These changes are raising the bar for required employee skillsets and talent at all levels is becoming a key differentiator in this competitive industry. During this crucial time of change, the US manufacturing industry faces a 2 million worker shortfall over the next decade. One critical element that can help close this gap is the largely untapped population of women in the workforce.

Women total about 29% of the manufacturing workforce, far below their representation in the U.S. labor force as a whole. Although women make up nearly half of the working population (47.5 percent), they remain underrepresented in the manufacturing industry. Given this vast, untapped talent pool, manufacturers need to rethink their approach to recruiting, retaining, and advancing women in the workplace.

What’s in it for Manufacturing?

Research shows that gender diversity benefits a manufacturing firm through improved ability to innovate, higher return on equity (ROE), and increased profitability. When employees believe their organization is committed to inclusion, they report better business performance in terms of their ability to innovate. Decreased turnover intentions were also associated with employees’ positive perceptions of a company’s “diversity climate.” Researchers also found that a pro-diversity work climate correlated with lower turnover intentions among all employees, both male and female.

How can Manufacturing become better at attracting women?

  1. Companies should identify the gaps between expectations and workplace reality. Identifying and recognizing the gap is a critical first step, but sending clear signals to the broader organization that the gap must be closed is vital. Perception of manufacturing continues to be outdated among women. A focus on improving perception is critical to attracting all talent, but especially women.
  2. Increasing visibility of women leaders is needed. Female role models need to be visible throughout all levels. It is easier to aspire to what you can see. Companies and professionals should build the future pipeline of talent by engaging with younger females. Female leaders already in manufacturing roles sharing career stories with students is very impactful and sends a positive message about manufacturing. Companies may recruit hard and engage hard, but they also need to figure out how to drive women to the top.
  3. Attract certified / degreed people early because once they come, they stay. Companies need to customize [retention] strategies for women (or men) with varying experience levels, using strategies like aligning recent female graduates with more experienced women in the organization. Benefits, flexibility, and culture are three factors that will attract experienced women.

Obviously, all of this requires a concerted effort on the part of manufacturers and communities that benefit from the presence of manufacturers to turn this around. Women need to be at the table every step of the way to make these changes. Opportunities to bolster manufacturing’s attractiveness to women can begin at home and in schools, and female ambassadors can play an important role in improving perceptions.

Companies that are proactive and creative about attracting, securing, and retaining the talent they need will capitalize the most. ETS pours resources into the latest and greatest candidates sources to attract talent, and our comprehensive data provides businesses with the insights needed for an effective hiring and retention strategy. Request Staff Now.