The manufacturing industry needs workers. An estimated 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled in the next decade. Some of these jobs will need to be filled by women, too. But attracting and, more so, retaining women has been a challenge for the manufacturing industry. That’s why APICS and the Manufacturing Institute recently teamed up to release a guide that current females in the industry can use to encourage other women to seek manufacturing jobs.
The tool kit of sorts is called “LEAD: Becoming an Impactful Voice to the Next Generation of Talent,” and outlines ways women in manufacturing can serve as “ambassadors” for the industry and increase awareness about the opportunities for women in the field. Currently, while women make up about 47% of the overall labor force, they make up just 27% of those working in manufacturing. The problem, according to APICS CEO Abe Eshkenazi, isn’t so much that manufacturing cannot attract females but that it struggles to retain women and promote them to higher-level positions.
“The challenge comes in as individuals stay longer, there becomes less women in management and within manufacturing and there is less opportunities for women in senior management and manufacturing,” Eshkenazi said. “That was one area we saw a significant gap in the marketplace.”
A 2015 report published by APICS, Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute identified the main reasons women leave manufacturing jobs: poor working relationships, lack of promotion opportunities and low income or pay. The report also showed that an industry bias toward men in leadership positions exists in the manufacturing, which is a main factor contributing to underrepresentation of women in the industry. Other factors identified were organizational cultural norms, a lack of mentorship and perception of manufacturing overall.
Changing these hindering factors is one of the goals of the LEAD tool kit. Many people, including women, may be staying away from manufacturing jobs because of an outdated perception of the industry.
“It still is unfortunately a perspective of a manually led industry as opposed to a very exciting industry that does leverage technology and robotics and a whole host of other opportunities,” Eshkenazi said.
Benefits for Manufacturing Firms
Companies, too, need to recognize they may need to change how they operate to attract women and raise awareness of the opportunities that exist for the in the industry, Eshkenazi said. The 2015 report “Women in manufacturing study Exploring the gender gap,” showed many companies do not have recruiting efforts to attract or retain women. Of the more than 600 women in the manufacturing industry surveyed for the report, two-thirds said their companies do not have active recruitment programs aimed at attracting female employees. Only one-third of women thought their companies did a good job recruiting, retaining and developing women.
For companies, attracting more women to manufacturing is more than just “doing the right thing,” Eshkenazi said. Research has shown companies that have a more diverse leadership teams financially outperform organizations without such teams.
“This is good business,” he said. “There’s opportunity and there are more successful organizations when they have a diverse workforce.”