Closing the Skills Gap with Women in Manufacturing

women in manufacturing

For many, there is just something about the word “manufacturing” that just seems manly.

Often, when someone is asked to describe an old manufacturing company, they think of a male-dominated, old school factory.

According to a report from the National Women’s Law Center, women lost more manufacturing jobs than were gained from January 2010 to February 2013. And maybe that was because women thought manufacturing meant sweaty conditions and slaving over factory parts.

But that idea is old.

Today, a handful of local manufacturing companies are owned by women, companies are hiring women for management positions, and some are even going so far as to become vice presidents and C-levels.

There really are no more dirty assembly lines. Now, manufacturing businesses are higher-tech. Outdated and wrong impressions of the manufacturing have impacted the desire of women to join factory and manufacturing jobs.

The key to climbing through these industrial roles, though, is skill. And currently, as we often discuss, there is a huge skills gap in manufacturing—and that skills gap appears to worsen as you move into the population of women.

Women make up 50 percent of the work force, but only 24 percent of the manufacturing labor force.

Advances have been taken to promote the value of women within these workforces. In 2012, as the Manufacturing Institute notes, “the Manufacturing Institute launched the Science, Technology, Engineering and Production (STEP) Ahead initiative to honor and promote the role of women […] through recognition, research, and leadership.”

This past February, The Atlantic ran an article reporting that if women moved into manufacturing or skilled jobs, their earnings would increase by 30 percent.

Manufacturing companies regularly report that there is a shortage of skilled workers, and though their unemployment rate falls below the national rate, reports show that there are still 300,000 manufacturing jobs open.

These job opening require a level of higher education and “basic science, technology, and math (S.T.E.M.) skills”, which women are reportedly less represented in.

As more and more manufacturing companies are decreasing the gap in skilled workers, they realize that the more diverse their company is, the more benefits will come.

To make this into a reality, the educational system needs to encourage girls (and women) to become increasingly more interested in fields such as math and science to produce the skills needed to become more active in the manufacturing field.

The perception of the current state of manufacturing factories needs to change, as well. The picture of a male-dominated, greasy, dimly lit factory needs to be erased from minds before any real change can happen. And that’s exactly the type of cause we’re fighting for here at NeMAC.

Photo credit: Made in Dayton