What does it mean to be a woman in manufacturing?

By Penny Brown, Director, AMT Marketing & Communications

It was my fourth time at IMTS this year, and walking the halls in this most recent edition, I had two thoughts about the attendees. First: Wow, they are really getting younger! Second: There are a lot more women here, and (thankfully) they aren’t just “booth talent.”

During the show, I was lucky enough to attend Gardner Business Media’s Girls Night Out, an event that has grown each year since its inception. It was great to connect with old friends and make some new ones, especially as these are women who are making an impact as manufacturing leaders, and I’m proud to say that many of them are members of AMT.

Right after the close of IMTS, Women in Manufacturing hosted its annual summit in Nashville, welcoming hundreds of women for plant tours, professional development sessions, mentor/mentee matchmaking, and networking. Hats off to a great team at WiM for building such an incredible network that just continues to grow!

Some might question why it’s necessary to have women-focused events when there are so many other industry events in manufacturing. But in an era where there is open discussion about women’s challenges in the workplace (see “mansplaining”), these types of connections are really important, especially in a male-dominated industry.

Ladies, we are arriving, but we’ve still got a ways to go.

According to a 2015 report by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, women make up 47 percent of the overall workforce but just 27 percent of the manufacturing workforce. Simply put, it can get lonely for a woman on the factory floor. At a time when manufacturing is seeing a desperate need for skilled workers, it seems that it’s a very good time to address ways to tap this vast talent pool.

I see this as part of the image campaign for our industry. Like young people, women need to see the value of a manufacturing career, but they also need to feel like there is a place for them in it. Whether their skill is design, management, engineering, or some other area of business, diversity is proven to improve a company’s competitiveness and innovation – real bottom-line reasons to make sure your workforce includes a gender balance at ALL levels of your organization.

The Deloitte study showed that three factors were key talent initiatives for attracting more women to manufacturing: Flexible work practices; formal and informal mentorship and sponsorship programs; and identifying and increasing the visibility of key leaders who serve as role models for employees. If you look at your business, have you made efforts to implement these types of practices?

If you are a woman in manufacturing, reach out. Make connections with other women. Become a mentor or seek one for yourself. Work with other leaders at your company to implement best practices for attracting women to your company. As a team, we are stronger together!

Are you a woman in manufacturing? Has your company made efforts to attract female employees? I’d love to hear your story. Reach out to me at pbrown@AMTonline.org.

Categories: Advocacy

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