In the electronics industry, organizations are concerned about finding workers to fill the burgeoning number of manufacturing and supply chain jobs. One great source may be found in encouraging and supporting women to pursue careers and advancement in manufacturing, a recent study found.
“By focusing on recruiting and retaining female talent, organizations can lessen turnover, decrease workforce costs by improving employee relations, enhance shareholder value, and improve public perception,” said APICS CEO Abe Eshkenazi.
The study, which was released by APICS Supply Chain Council, Deloitte, and The Manufacturing Institute, is titled Minding the Manufacturing Gender Gap: How manufacturers can get their fair share of talented women . The report compiled feedback from more than 600 women across manufacturing roles and explored best practices for attracting, retaining, and advancing women in manufacturing careers.
The study found that women might be excited about finding a place in the manufacturing industry. Unfortunately, most organizations are doing less than they might to support and woo this key segment of workers. Consider:
- 26% of those surveyed said their companies' retention efforts are poor or very poor.
- Two thirds of those surveyed said that performance standards are different for men and women.
- Across all manufacturing industries, women earn on average 82% of what men do.
- 84% of those surveyed fear a talent shortage in U.S. manufacturing.
Today, most manufacturing organizations understand and acknowledge the problem of recruiting, retaining, and promoting women, and most know that getting better in these areas will have demonstrable benefits, Eshkenazi told EBN in an interview. “We fall short in knowing what to do about it,” he added. “We are not doing a good job of addressing and executing on the problem.”
Fortunately, there are proactive steps that organizations can do to enhance their efforts at giving women a fair chance of finding and staying in a manufacturing career. “Prioritizing continued education through organizations like APICS can support the professional development of employees and by doing so, help companies retain valuable talent,” said Eshkenazi. “We are seeing positive changes from the industry regarding recruitment efforts, but it will take a collective effort to see a greater number of women applying for positions in manufacturing and progressing to leadership roles.”
Often, companies don't know where to start… Clearly, though, to succeed, electronics OEMs need to make closing the gap a real priority. “It has to be an organization wide initiative,” said Eshkenazi. “It can't be the flavor of the month or window dressing.” To that end, the push for fair hiring practices for women has to start with the leadership team and be supported by human resources initiatives, he added.
Corporate culture and hiring practices have to evolve to meet the needs of a more diverse work force, Eshkenazi said. “As you bring in different demographics, including religious, gender, or other groups of diverse individuals, you have to be responsive and understand that certain employment practices will resonate with different individuals,” he added.
According to the survey, women have several clear priorities when it comes to their careers. In fact, 44% pointed to challenging/interesting assignments as a key priority, while 40% wanted an attractive salary package. With 26% of the mentions, good work/life balance was also a clear priority for many.l
Similarly, there are a number of factors that make women flee their manufacturing jobs. Half of those surveyed pointed to a handful of concerns that might cause them to consider leaving the industry:
- Poor working relationships
- Work-life balance
- Low income/pay
- Lack of promotion opportunities
- Lack of challenging or interesting assignments
Organizations must also be sure to highlight successful women in their organization. “We have to have some heroes, women who have made it,” explained Eshkenazi. “We have to have more of those examples of those type of individuals so people can see that it is possible that organizations do promote and advance women.”
Further, manufacturing and related jobs should be highlighted for youngsters during their education, at the high school level and even earlier. Only 12% of those surveyed reported that they felt that students were actively encouraged to think about training to work in manufacturing during primary school and high school. “They need awareness of the opportunities that lie in supply chain and manufacturing,” Eshkenazi said.
Finally, organizations need to address the very real pay gap that exists. “As women moves up in the organization, the pay gap actually increases,” said Eshkenazi. “The longer they stay in the organization, the greater the pay gap. There's a perception that women won't stay in the organization and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Individuals, too, can have a great impact in terms of raising visibility of women in manufacturing. Most women surveyed (780%) said that they would still choose manufacturing if they had it to do over again, a figure that illustrates great commitment to the industry. “Workers in the industry have a responsibility to tell others what a great career manufacturing is,” said Eshkenazi. “There's a great place for passion and evangelism about careers in manufacturing and the supply chain.”