Since March is Women’s History Month we wanted to take this opportunity to talk about women in manufacturing. Women first began entering the workforce during World War I when a large number of jobs were vacated by men who had gone to fight in the war. There was a shortage of workers and an increasing number of jobs being created as part of the war effort. This led to the rise of women entering the workforce, more specifically the manufacturing industry.
Today women represent nearly half of the total US workforce (47%), yet they comprise less than a third (27%) of manufacturing jobs. “In nearly 100 years, there has been a meager 8% increase in the number of female employees in the manufacturing industry. Not the kind of stellar advancement anyone would like to see.”
Currently over 32% of women switch out of STEM degree programs in college, only 30% of women who earn bachelor’s degree in engineering are still working in engineering 20 years later and of the women who have left the engineering profession 30% cite organizational climate and lack of mentorship as the reason.
There are a variety of reason for these statistics but Women in Manufacturing (WIM) conducted several surveys that found very few respondents listing manufacturing as a field that offers opportunities for women, and only about half could recall a manufacturing company they would consider a leader in attracting and promoting women. After seeing these results its not surprising that women aren’t entering the manufacturing field. However, there are steps manufacturers can take to make a difference.
The negative perception of manufacturing jobs has contributed greatly to the skills gap, but if that attitude can be changed it will be beneficial to the entire industry. Working directly with young high school and college level students to change those inaccurate judgements about manufacturing can make these jobs more appealing to young men and women. Speaking with educators and parents about the high-quality, good paying jobs available in manufacturing can help break down some of these stereotypes.
Mentors can also be a major factor in attracting women to the industry. “According to “Why So Few?” by the American Association of University Women in 2010, ‘Mentorship is often cited as a key strategy for exciting, supporting, and keeping students, young scientists, and engineers in the fields of STEM. This is particularly true for individuals who haven’t historically participated in these areas—such as young women and underrepresented minorities.’”
Creating opportunities for young girls to get hand-on experience in the STEM fields can also make an impact. Increasing the amount of positive exposure when girls are young will increase their knowledge of opportunities in manufacturing later on. Participating in events like National Manufacturing Day can be instrumental in showcasing the benefits of a career in manufacturing.
Younger generations also value opportunities to make a difference. Many jobs within the manufacturing industry have that potential. Author of 5 Ways to Increase the Number of Women in the Manufacturing Industry, Pamela Kan, said “Talking with the engineers at my company, they have all said – many times – that what they most love about the manufacturing industry is the ability to take their schooling and innate interests and make a difference by creating something new that can help a customer.”
We need women in the manufacturing industry and these small but impactful actions can make a huge difference. Changing the conversation at an early age and exposing young girls to STEM can make a huge difference down the line.
For more details you can read the full article here.