Women in Manufacturing: Stepping Up to Make an Impact That Matters

This joint study from Deloitte, Manufacturing Institute, and APICS, is the result of more than 600 survey responses from women professionals in the manufacturing industry, along with more than 20 manufacturing executive interviews. By Deloitte, Manufacturing Institute, APICS

October 6, 2017

The lay of the land: The state of women in manufacturing

Modern manufacturing is undergoing a fundamental transformation; a new fourth industrial revolution.

Rapid technological advances and the convergence of physical and digital manufacturing are helping change the way manufacturers operate and raising the bar for required employee skillsets.

Talent at all levels is becoming a key competitive differentiator. In fact, manufacturing executives around the world rank talent as the top driver of manufacturing competitiveness.

At the same time, the US manufacturing industry faces an estimated two-million-worker shortfall over the next decade, and industry executives report that six out of 10 positions are currently unfilled due to a manufacturing skills gap.

Yet, at least one critical element that can aid in closing the gap remains largely untapped-women.

About the women in manufacturing study
The Manufacturing Institute, APICS, and Deloitte surveyed over 600 women in manufacturing and conducted nearly 20 manufacturing executive interviews to explore how effectively manufacturing companies are attracting, recruiting, and retaining women, and what should be done to close the gender gap.

The women we surveyed are well-educated (88 percent hold a bachelor’s degree or above), experienced (71 percent have been working over 15 years), hold a variety of senior positions, are employed by large companies (52 percent work in organizations with annual revenue over $1 billion), and are evenly represented across generations.

Women represent a vast talent pool
Women constitute one of US manufacturing’s largest pools of untapped talent.

Women totaled about 47 percent of the US labor force in 2016, but only 29 percent of the manufacturing workforce.

Women earn more than half of all associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees.

They are also advancing in their careers, holding more than half of all US managerial and professional positions.

So with plenty of qualified women in the workforce, how can we increase the number in the manufacturing industry?

What do women have to say?
Given that women are underrepresented in manufacturing, and the argument to increase the industry’s fair share of female talent is persuasive, one thing is certain: Manufacturing companies likely need a different approach to recruiting, retaining, and advancing women in the workplace.

The women we surveyed and interviewed had a lot to say on the topic; not just about jobs they’ve had (or aspire to have), but about manufacturing and changes they would like to see in the industry’s culture.

The insights in this study point to how companies can effectively recruit, retain and advance talented women in manufacturing, and illustrates how women in manufacturing are making an impact in the industry through programs like STEP Ahead.

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