Once we have women interested in manufacturing, we need to nurture that interest by addressing career choice concerns. Women cite three employment characteristics as most important: attractive pay, the opportunity for challenging and interesting assignments, and work-life balance.
Though some progress has been made to reduce the pay gap and make pay more attractive for women, there’s still work to do. Eighty-seven% of women surveyed believe standards for pay increases and promotions are higher for women than for men. While half of those respondents believe the pay gap between men and women in the manufacturing industry has been significantly or moderately shrinking over the last five years, this must continue until the pay gap doesn’t exist at all.
As for more challenging and interesting work, more than one-third of respondents said a lack of challenging assignments was a reason to leave the industry. Employers should be encouraging women to take on strategic, high-visibility assignments – not only will this help retain women in the industry, but their knowledge and expertise can be deployed throughout the organization, positively impacting the bottom line.
Work-life balance, the other cited factor, is lacking in manufacturing. Less than 15% of the women we surveyed see the industry as ‘very accepting’ of family and personal commitments. Most women feel it’s often a choice between addressing their personal commitments and maintaining a good standing within their careers. One executive implored organizations to take a second look at maternity policies, as flexibility among those policies can be quite impactful, saying “companies should consider their maternity and paternity policies to improve workplace flexibility. It doesn’t affect a huge number of people, but the message that it sends is so important.”
The companies that address these key concerns will be the most successful. Beyond the above examples, there are many ways in which a company can attract, retain, and advance talented women within the manufacturing industry:
- Start at the top and lead by example. Seventy-two percent of women surveyed believe they’re underrepresented within their company’s leadership team. Successful organizations have created programs that engage all levels and genders of workers, promoting a diverse workforce.
- Establish an innovative, inclusive culture. This begins with the hiring process. Human resources should do the advance work to ensure the organization is attracting a diverse candidate pool. Quite simply, the more diverse the team, the more likely it will have unique ideas and opportunities.
- Tackle workplace diversity issues head-on. The study stresses the need for allies – both men and women – to reinforce that gender gaps are unacceptable. Formally addressing issues, like the pay gap or parental leave policies, is the key to solving them.
- Promote professional development. Women stressed the need for mentors and role models within their profession. Attending conferences and exploring other opportunities for professional development should be encouraged. Women with more experience can also be brand advocates by speaking at these types of events.
- Partner with the community. Educating the community early and often is vital to addressing the manufacturing skills gap. Showcase the opportunities while dispelling any negative misconceptions.
Taking the steps to recruit, retain, and advance women should be a top priority for all organizations. Sustaining these practices will lead to opportunities for individuals and increased success for business.
To read the report in full, visit APICS.org.