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Women in Manufacturing

For years, many manufacturers have been unable to attract and retain a quality workforce. Women are currently underrepresented in the manufacturing industry. For the manufacturers who realize this, it is a great opportunity to access talent to grow their business.

Women constitute one of the largest talent pools that has not been historically tapped for manufacturing. In 2019, women made up 49.5% of the payrolled labor force in Michigan. Michigan’s manufacturing workforce accounts for 27.5% of women. In regards to education, women earn more than half of all associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. Data indicates that women are also advancing in their careers, holding more than half of all US managerial and professional positions.

Attract Women Into Manufacturing

Manufacturers are recognizing they need to attract women to the industry. In 2016, Deloitte released a report titled “Women in manufacturing: Stepping up to make an impact that matters.” The report highlights the importance of women in manufacturing, how manufacturers can cultivate an inclusive workplace and provides insights into attracting, retaining and supporting women.

Deloitte surveyed 600 women in manufacturing. The responses indicated progress has been made to attract women into manufacturing, but there is still a journey ahead for manufacturers to appeal to women. Here are a few highlights from the survey:

  • Less than 15 percent of women surveyed believe their industry is very accepting of family/ personal commitments and allows them to meet these commitments without impairing their career.

  • More than 4 out of 10 women surveyed are either responsible for the majority of household duties or share home responsibilities equally with their spouse or partner.

  • Nearly three quarters (72 percent) of women surveyed believe they are underrepresented in their organization’s leadership team, with a significantly higher share of junior management (78 percent) believing they are underrepresented when compared to senior management.

The top issues women identified on why they would leave the manufacturing industry are as follows: unattractive pay, lack of opportunities for advancement/ promotion, poor working relationships, work life balance issues, and lack of challenging assignments.

Moving Forward

In order to attract, retain and advance talented women in manufacturing, manufacturers need to think a little differently. Deloitte has recommendations for manufacturers who have a desire to tap into a talent pool that is knowledgeable, innovative and forward thinking.

  • Start at the top and lead by example. Respondents of the Deloitte survey believe industry bias towards men for leadership positions, organizational cultural norms, and the perception of the industry overall are the three primary factors for under representation of women.

  • Foster an innovative and inclusive culture that encourages gender diverse teams at all levels. Activate a culture that sparks diversity of thought and invites individuals to work together, spur innovation, and grow with purpose.

  • Tackle workplace diversity issues head-on and create strong signals of change. Company leaders need to address issues mentioned above and create a work environment that meets the needs of all employees. It is important to identify allies, men and women alike, to reinforce that gender gaps are not acceptable.

  • Drive organizational accountability. A common theme among executives interviewed is that they must take the lead in driving organizational accountability around increasing diversity and promoting a culture of inclusion.

  • Promote professional development. With women ranking opportunities for challenging and interesting assignments as a top motivator for staying in the manufacturing industry— along with identifying and increasing the visibility of key leaders who serve as role models for women.

Manufacturing is fast moving, innovative, creative and exciting to be part of. If manufacturers look beyond traditional talent pools to support their facility, they have an opportunity to access talent that will help move their businesses forward. Women is one talent pool, and there are many, many more.

A number of manufacturers have been asking MGA about culture and how to elevate culture as a priority. Leadership needs to pay close attention to culture to ensure team belonging, maintain productivity and employee retention.

MGA has a long-lasting partnership with Shepard Advisors. They are experts in helping growth minded companies navigate challenges and opportunities. We recently hosted a webinar on “Changing Culture Through Conversations.” We recorded the webinar to only be 30 minutes. If you would like to watch the webinar you can access it here.

Deloitte’s full report “Women in manufacturing: Stepping up to make an impact that matters” can be accessed here.


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