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Women in Manufacturing

women in manufacturing

As women in the workforce moved from novel to commonplace to expected throughout the 20th century, their changing roles became the focus of many news articles, documentaries, and blog posts. Women entered new fields, worked longer hours, turned over more domestic tasks to their partners, and essentially reinvented their role in modern western society. This is as true for women in manufacturing as it is anywhere else.

That said, manufacturing has proven a particularly difficult industry for women to break into. They are constantly confronted with all-male environments and others’ expectations of femininity. Those expectations mean they do not get the same access to opportunity, and often struggle to find their place in their chosen careers.

The good news is that’s becoming less and less the case. Not only is the industry changing for women, women are changing the industry too. Let’s take a look at the current state of women in manufacturing, what opportunities now exist, what the benefits are of employing women, and how we can empower more of them to enter – and stay in – the field today.

The Current State of Women in Manufacturing

Fewer than one third of people in the industry are women in manufacturing, despite the fact that women make up more than 50 percent of the workforce, according to recent statistics. Traditionally, it has been dominated by males in typically male-oriented roles: engineering, machining, laboring, and so forth.

More women are getting such degrees, of course, especially with the push for girls in STEM education around the world. As increasing numbers of parents and teachers cultivate their daughters’ and students’ interests in science, technology, engineering, and math, we will increasingly see participation from women in STEM-heavy fields such as manufacturing. Unfortunately, we have not yet reached equality.

The problem with the limited participation of women in manufacturing is that the industry, just like any other, depends on diverse ideas and workers to keep it alight. We need to keep women coming into the field, which means making more opportunities for them. Before we take a look at how to do that, though, let’s first ask what opportunities already exist.

What Opportunities Exist for Women in Industry?

The fact that one third of folks in the manufacturing industry are women is heartening, for starters. It means that plenty of female employees and entrepreneurs have already found room for their ideas and contributions. These opportunities take many forms, including but not limited to:

  • Roles for women from every educational background, from diplomas to degrees to postgraduate honors
  • Available jobs at a wide range of salaries in transportation, production, materials, and similar manufacturing-heavy industries
  • Signing bonuses and affirmative action packages for women to help them succeed in the industry
  • Opportunities for girls to experience careers related to manufacturing from a young age, potentially starting at the elementary school level
  • Women in leadership roles at work, which provides good mentors for women entering the field
  • Manufacturing courses, extracurricular opportunities, and leaders showing up in higher education

Among the many jobs now available to women, they can become:

  • Assemblers
  • Fabricators
  • Machinists
  • Heavy equipment operators
  • Inspectors
  • Sorters and samplers
  • Weighers
  • Testers

With such a wide range of potential roles, women have more options than ever if they want to start a career in manufacturing. Which is lucky, because they’re bringing lots of boons to the field.

The Benefits of Empowering Women in Industry

Women in manufacturing provide a great deal of benefit to the industry. This has always been true of diversity, for the simple reason that different people think in different ways. A new perspective can offer lots of insight, which can in turn be used to create amazing new products and increase market share. This increases the bottom line of any company.

Simply put, women process emotions, events and ideas differently than men do. This allows companies with a high percentage of women – and ideally other minority groups – to generate more ideas across the board. One of those might well be the next game-changer for that company or the industry as a whole.

Perhaps most compellingly, when men and women work together, you get the benefit of both mindsets and approaches operating in tandem. Bouncing ideas between people of different genders leads to a more complete picture of any problem or challenge.

Plus, as we increasingly empower women, there are downstream effects. More girls see the industry as an option for themselves, and therefore more girls will stay in STEM-related school tracks. More girls will become women who get jobs in manufacturing and related fields. More of them will stick with the career long enough to inspire the next generation, bringing more women in. It becomes a virtuous cycle where the only loser is conservatism for the sake of conservatism – and the winner is American manufacturing and global prowess.

Pretty good deal, right?

How Do We Empower Women Today?

The best way to empower women is to listen to what they need and then provide it. Women in manufacturing, as is true for women across the workforce and even across national and cultural borders, want to be respected for who they are, rather than forced to conform to a male model. There are distinct differences in the way women and men think, react, and share their emotions, and we must respect them. That includes:

  • Customizing benefits packages to women
  • Understanding the personal time and family obligations of women
  • Creating flexibility in hours worked, starting times, or ending times
  • Making an effort to seek the opinion of women inside and out of meetings
  • Creating committees devoted to diversity, inclusion, and equity

The more we all do our part, the more innovation, novelty, and cutting-edge competitiveness women will bring to manufacturing.

Want to learn more about women in manufacturing? Hope to support those efforts in your own business? Want to speak with a representative from Illinois Pulley and Gear about this or any issue? Please feel free to contact us today.