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Women make up nearly 50% of the American workforce, but only about one-third of manufacturing workers. As manufacturers continue to struggle with labor shortages, more women are entering the sector and occupying leadership positions.
To discuss the important role of women in manufacturing, we spoke with Mavens of Manufacturing host Meaghan Ziemba. Ziemba is an industrial manufacturer’s brand He’s a storyteller, a tech he’s a writer, and a marketer. She created her live video series Mavens of Manufacturing, celebrating women in manufacturing, from shop floors to executives, and encouraging younger generations to get involved in manufacturing.
David Mantey (DM): What is the current state of women in manufacturing?
Megan Ziemba (MZ): According to the US Department of Commerce, women make up 30% of the manufacturing workforce. With one in four women in managerial positions, women in manufacturing earn about 16% more annually than the median earnings of all employed women in the United States.
DM: How have companies stepped up to recruit a more diverse workforce with women in leadership roles?
MZ: I have observed several things companies are doing to attract and hire more women into leadership roles. For example, job descriptions have been changed to have more inclusive language that doesn’t discourage women from applying. Companies are also looking to candidate potential rather than experience to help diversify their workforce. Some other examples are:
- Evaluation and promotion procedures have become transparent, giving women equal opportunities for promotion.
- Work-life balance has changed a lot. More companies are offering flexible schedules (remote work or hybrid opportunities), better access to child care, and full payment during maternity leave. Women are more likely to leave companies that don’t promote inclusion or engage in employee benefits.
- Representation is important, so companies are making more intentional marketing tactics that highlight female leaders on their websites, marketing materials, articles, social channels, and more. Women are also selected to participate more in speaking events and public appearances.
- The new mentoring program helped bridge the gap between older and younger generations and helped inspire the next generation of women to pursue leadership opportunities within the organization.
- Training and continuous improvement programs are being improved to help women develop their leadership skills.
- Finally, some companies are participating in organizations focused on women in the workplace, such as Women in Manufacturing (WiM), Society of Women Engineers, Women in 3D Printing, and Women of Today’s Manufacturing (WOTM).
DM: What are your thoughts on current efforts to encourage more women to enter manufacturing?
MZ: I am definitely encouraged, but there is still a way to go.
We often hear conversations about how to involve more women in traditionally male-dominated fields such as manufacturing and engineering. I also love seeing how many men share the same mission as me. Their support is essential to attracting and recruiting more women into the industry.
DM: What do women look for in manufacturing jobs when it comes to job satisfaction?
MZ: Honestly, it depends on who you ask. Not all women have the same goals and aspirations. I talk to women who are single mothers and want more flextime so they can drop their kids off at school or daycare. So I spoke with a woman who prefers to work from home.
A common theme I’ve noticed for all women is an equal opportunity to be recognized for their skill sets and contributions. Of course, everyone wants to be compensated for their services, but I think women are open to negotiating specific benefits that are in line with their core values.
DM: What is the future of women in manufacturing?
MZ: The future looks bright. The current skills gap provides women with many opportunities in engineering and manufacturing.
But as an industry, we need to be more proactive in making women aware of these opportunities and encouraging them to pursue them. The public needs to be better educated about what. Because there is still a misconception that manufacturing is this dark, dirty, boring, dangerous place that doesn’t offer a lot of growth opportunities. It’s true.
Manufacturing is a place of creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration. You don’t have to be a math or science genius.
Image credit: nullplus / Shutterstock.com
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