Study: More women could lift manufacturing sector

A new study says women can help address the growing skills gap in manufacturing.

A new study says women can help address the growing skills gap in manufacturing.

Although there has been an overall positive change in the industry’s attitude toward female employees, women still make up only 29 percent of the U.S. manufacturing workforce. They are about half of the total U.S. labor force.

The Manufacturing Institute, Deloitte and APICS released a study titled “Women in Manufacturing: Stepping up to make an impact that matters.”

“Our research estimates that the cumulative manufacturing skills gap — or the positions that likely won’t be filled due to a lack of skilled workers — will grow to 2 million between 2015 and 2025,” Craig Giffi, vice chairman of Deloitte LLP and U.S. automotive practice leader said in a statement.

The joint study is the result of more than 600 survey responses from female professionals in the manufacturing industry, along with nearly 20 manufacturing executive interviews.

The insights point to how companies can effectively recruit, retain and advance talented women in manufacturing and illustrates ways that women in manufacturing are making an impact in the industry through programs such as STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Ahead.

This study confirms the importance of increasing the number of women in the manufacturing workforce and that many manufacturers are missing a critical talent pool, which could aid in closing the skills gap.

Some key highlights from the study include:

* Nearly three fourths (70 percent) of women indicate they would stay in manufacturing if they were to start their career today;

* Some of the most important employment characteristics for women in manufacturing include opportunities for challenging and interesting assignments, attractive pay and work-life balance; and

* The most impactful programs to help retain women in manufacturing include formal and informal mentorship programs, flexible work practices and increasing the visibility of key leaders who serve as role models.

“The industry is missing out on a critical talent resource to help advance innovation in manufacturing, increase America’s competitiveness in the global manufacturing landscape and close the skills gap,” said Trina Huelsman, vice chairman, co-author of the research, Deloitte & Touche LLP.

“Unleashing the potential of women in manufacturing can reap big rewards. Organizations that make recruitment, retention and advancement of women a strategic priority can bring diverse decision-making perspectives, drive innovative and creative solutions and can achieve overall better business performance.”