Engineering a change

Women are taking their place in manufacturing leadership.

By Bob Vavra, CFE Media September 25, 2018

As manufacturing continues its growth spurt, industry leaders face a real challenge to find the next generation of engineers. Every survey indicates the greatest barrier to continued growth is a lack of a skilled workforce.

One-half of the overall American workforce is increasingly ready to fill that gap.Women make up 47% of the U.S. labor force, according to the Census Bureau, but just 29% of the manufacturing workforce. Less than one in five engineers in manufacturing are women, but there are signs that number will increase. A 2017 study by Deloitte found:

• 29% of women think the school system actively or somewhat encourages female students to pursue a career in the manufacturing industry. That’s more than doubled from 12% in 2015

• 42% of women (compared to 24% in 2015) now are ready to encourage their daughter or female family member to pursue a career in their industry

• 58% of women have observed marked or some positive changes in their industry’s attitude towards female professional employees, over the last five years.

Women engineers already in the plant see a change as well. Plant Engineering discussed a woman’s career in manufacturing, from inception to their current opportunities, with six employees at Victaulic, which manufactures pipe joining systems and pipe fittings. Their individual stories are different, but their journeys all have led them to a career in manufacturing at a time when manufacturing needs more career-minded people.

Bob Vavra, content manager for Plant Engineering, CFE Media,