MRO Magazine

Report lists strategies for closing the gender gap in manufacturing

Human Resources

July 21, 2015
By Bill Roebuck


Washington, DC – The Manufacturing Institute, Deloitte Consulting LLP and the APICS Supply Chain Council have released a new joint study, Minding the manufacturing gender gap: How manufacturers can get their fair share of talented women. The joint study represents both the collective perspective of 600 women in manufacturing, as well as the voice of manufacturing leaders, and calls upon manufacturers to tap into the full power and potential of women to improve the United States’ manufacturing sector’s ability to compete worldwide. The information presented can also apply to the manufacturing sector in Canada.

This study confirms the importance of increasing the amount of women in the manufacturing workforce and points out that manufacturers are missing a critical talent pool that could aid in closing the skills gap.

Some key highlights from the study include:

– More than two-thirds of women indicate they would stay in manufacturing if they were to start their career today


– 65% of survey respondents indicate their company does not have an active recruitment program to attract potential female employees

– Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of respondents believe women are underrepresented within organizations’ leadership teams.

Many women respondents believe that standards of performance are not equal for men and women, with 77% responding the standards are higher for women.

Despite the challenges uncovered in this study, it is clear women in manufacturing have a positive outlook, the study notes, and it indicates that efforts are paying off in progress. Slightly more than half of respondents (51 percent) indicate they have observed positive change in manufacturing’s attitude toward female professional employees over the past five years. Furthermore, two-thirds of women responding to the women in manufacturing survey said they would fully endorse (24 percent) or endorse with caveats (42 percent) a career in manufacturing for their daughters or family members.

“Our research estimates that the cumulative manufacturing skills gap — or the positions that likely won’t be filled due to a lack of skilled workers — will grow to two million between 2015 and 2025,” said Craig Giffi, vice-chairman, Deloitte LLP and US automotive practice leader. “The industry is missing out on a critical talent resource to advance innovation in manufacturing, increase America’s competitiveness in the global manufacturing landscape and close that skills gap.”

Antoinette (Tonie) Leatherberry, co-author of the research and principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, adds: “Recruiting and retaining women in manufacturing is just smart business. Organizations that make recruitment, retention and advancement of women a strategic priority stand to gain greater access to this impressive talent pool, which in turn will give their company a competitive advantage.”

Women constitute manufacturing’s largest pool of untapped talent in the United States, says the study. They comprise just over one-fourth (27 percent) of manufacturing employees, even though women make up nearly half (47 percent) of the total US labour force. Women are underrepresented in nearly every manufacturing sector in the US. They are seldom seen, relatively speaking, in top-level boxes on organizational charts, lagging behind the proportion of women in leadership at other types of companies. To help tackle this pressing issue, The Manufacturing Institute promotes the role of women in manufacturing through mentoring, recognition, research and leadership with the STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Ahead initiative.

“STEP Ahead gives talented and accomplished women a national platform to share their stories and inspire others to pursue manufacturing careers to help close the skills gap,” Institute president Jennifer McNelly said. “Manufacturing provides women with opportunities to be leaders and make an actual difference throughout the country.”

“Making manufacturing and supply chain careers more attractive to women can be significantly beneficial to companies struggling to hire qualified individuals,” says Abe Eshkenazi, APICS chief executive officer. “This report will serve as an essential and illuminating resource to businesses, managers, and workers.”

The report was released at the first STEP Forward women’s networking event in Davenport, Iowa, hosted by The Manufacturing Institute and Alcoa Foundation. The purpose of the event was to provide women manufacturing an opportunity to hear from women industry leaders, connect with their peers in manufacturing, and learn from each other’s successes.

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