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February 1, 2016

The Manufacturing Industry Will Need Women To Help Close The Skills Gap

Over the next ten years, the U.S. manufacturing industry will need to fill about 3.5 million jobs, but, because of a persistent gap between the skills needed to fill these positions and the qualifications most potential employees actually have, about two million of these jobs will go unfilled. 

What can manufacturers do? A new study by the Manufacturing Institute, Deloitte and the Supply Chain Council suggests companies look to women. Noting women currently comprise just 27 percent of the manufacturing workforce and are underrepresented in nearly every manufacturing subsector, the study’s authors argue, “Women constitute manufacturing’s largest pool of untapped talent in the United States.” 

The study looked at several manufacturing firms that have made concerted efforts to attract more women to the industry and drew several conclusions from those studies. The report suggests companies and C-suite executives must:

  • Communicate that gender diversity is “an inherent part of a company’s corporate strategy and culture”;
  • Address unconscious gender biases through targeted awareness training;
  • Create a more flexible work environment;
  • Foster formal and informal mentorship and sponsorship and leverage internal talent;
  • Recruit early to encourage female students to pursue careers in manufacturing;
  • Give women challenging assignments and invest in women’s personal development;
  • Create an employer and industry brand with women; and
  • Encourage men in the organization to be equally involved, committed, and engaged with the efforts.

Addressing the skills gap is not the only reason these efforts are important. With federal regulators increasingly exploring expansive, costly regulations to address the gender pay gap and other issues, it’s also important that employers take a proactive stance to encourage the inclusion and advancement of women in manufacturing.