Women in manufacturing

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The Need for Women in Manufacturing & How to Find Them

Many manufacturers say they struggle to find reliable, competent employees. If you’re one of them, how many women have roles in your manufacturing company? Do you have female machine operators or programmers on staff? If so, congratulations! You’ve tapped into an underused talent pool.

Although they account for roughly half of the US workforce, only about one-quarter of all working women are engaged in the field of manufacturing. If you ask manufacturers why they don’t employ more or any women, they may well answer that few, if any, actually apply for jobs.

This isn’t surprising. In a recent survey  just 7% of young women included manufacturing as one of the top 5 fields they believe offer good career opportunities. Yet the top two attributes they look for in a career are (1) interesting and challenging work, and (2) good earnings potential. Certainly, modern manufacturing offers both.

This suggests that the industry needs to work harder to dispel myths about manufacturing, such as:

  • It’s a dead-end, low-paying job
  • It’s more about brawn than brains
  • The working conditions are dirty and dangerous


It also indicates the need to be more proactive in recruiting women. If you don’t have an effective program in place, or would like to improve your current efforts, here are a few resources that can help:

  • The Manufacturing Institute’s STEP Ahead initiative released a study that offers insights on how to recruit and retain talented women for manufacturing careers. 

  • To help connect with experienced women engineers, programmers, managers, and others, the 700-member national association Women in Manufacturing  is an excellent resource whose mission is “…supporting, promoting and inspiring women who are pursuing or have chosen a career in the manufacturing industry.”

Hopefully, you’re already working with local trade schools and junior colleges to fill immediate job openings or to find candidates for apprenticeship or mentoring programs. However, manufacturers also need to help shape the attitudes of the next generation of women in manufacturing.

A good place to start is by reaching out to local schools – especially those with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) programs – to show and tell the reality of manufacturing today. Young women (and young men, too) need to understand that making useful products requires creativity, innovation, computer skills and problem solving – like other worthwhile careers they might consider.

Another avenue is to become involved with the Girl Scouts of America’s STEM programs  that encourage girls to experience the satisfaction of making things. Women already working in your organization make great ambassadors who can connect with these girls and young women.

As manufacturing technology continues to advance through IIoT  (Industrial Internet of Things) and the promise of Industry 4.0, manufacturers will need all of the talent – male and female – they can find. Now is the time to invest in this future.