Report: Attracting and retaining talented women could be key to filling talent gap

Survey results highlight perceptions of manufacturing careers, where women make up just 24.8% of the workforce.

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Even as manufacturing enjoys a resurgence in the United States, companies are facing a critical talent shortfall. According to a recent survey, one of the best ways to address the talent gap is to improve perceptions of the industry as a female-friendly workplace. Nearly 80% of survey respondents believe manufacturers can improve their efforts to recruit women, and 51% believe the main driver on women’s under-representation is the perception of a male-favored culture. While women make up 46% of the total U.S. labor force, they account for just 24.8% of the durable goods manufacturing workforce.

These are among the findings of a study conducted by global research firm Deloitte on behalf of the Manufacturing Institute, the education and research affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers. The survey reached more 620 women in manufacturing, across all functional roles and levels, and included one-on-one interviews with more than a dozen women. According to Jacey Wilkins, director of communications for the Manufacturing Institute, the study is part of a three-part initiative to assess and improve the role of women in manufacturing. The three parts include research, recognition, and leadership, where recognized women become ambassadors in their communities advocating for the next generation of female industry employees.

“The survey results didn’t necessarily surprise me,” said Wilkins. “We have research on the general perception of manufacturing among the American public and we know the stereotypes are out there. We know that people love manufacturing and think it’s great, but they aren’t going into it and they’re not going to encourage their kids to go into it.”

That said, some of the recent survey’s research presented interesting contrasts to past research. The surveyed women in manufacturing were more likely to recommend the industry to their sons than their daughters, but according to general public research more mothers than fathers are likely to recommend manufacturing jobs to children of either sex.

Women in manufacturing reported compensation and opportunities for challenging assignments as the top two attributes that make manufacturing an attractive career path. These align nicely with the desires of many young workers, but a disconnect persists. “There is a perception that these are routinized, mindless assembly line jobs, but that is beginning to change,” Wilkins said. “We, as an industry, need to address this head-on.”

As many as 600,000 manufacturing jobs remain unfilled and 70 percent of manufacturing companies report experiencing a moderate to severe talent shortage. “The United States is in a global war for jobs, and if manufacturers don’t attract the best and brightest, we will not be able to build a diverse workforce,” Wilkins Said. “No big problems were ever solved by a room full of people with the same background, experience and perspectives.”

Click here for the full report.


About the Author

Josh Bond, Contributing Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

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