One obvious source of labor in a tight job market is women. And with 12.7 million Americans now working in manufacturing, and 860,000 positions unfilled, employers should actively recruit and train women when they need capable job candidates. So said Allison Grealis, founder and president of Women in Manufacturing (WiM), a trade association based in Independence, Ohio. Grealis discussed the benefits of hiring women and making the workplace a supportive environment for them in a keynote session on June 14, at ANTEC®.
Women are 47 percent of the labor force, Grealis noted, but only 30 percent of the manufacturing workforce. Most women in manufacturing work in production jobs, which means there are lots of opportunities for them in other areas, notably management. One statistic Grealis shared with the audience was that worldwide only 2.7 percent of manufacturing companies are led by women.
Clearly, then, there is much ground to be gained by women in manufacturing.
The first thing companies should accept is that there is a gender gap in U.S. manufacturing employment, and with the quit rate in the business hovering at around 3 percent this year—354,000 in April and 362,000 in March for all employees, according to Grealis—employers need to reconsider their employment practices with an eye toward making them more welcoming to women, if they want to minimize or ideally eliminate job vacancies.
She suggested various ways of doing this. Among them: make female leadership at companies visible to women seeking jobs; assure equal pay for equal work; include more women in the interviewing and hiring process; make all job postings inclusive; share stories of women succeeding at manufacturing companies; provide training programs; and importantly, make the workplace family-centric.
As regards these last two: working mothers burn out at a 28 percent faster rate than men, Grealis explained, because they balance responsibilities at work with the demands of young children at home. Training programs, meantime, have a significant impact on career advancement for women.
WiM offers a number of virtual and in-person leadership institutes, summits, job fairs and other programs throughout the year to keep women engaged and knowledgeable in developing manufacturing careers (for information see womeninmanufacturing.org).
The organization also provides guidance to assist employers in implementing best practices for recruiting, training and retaining women in their workforce.