One answer to the U.S. manufacturing skills gap: women

Women in Manufacturing (WiM) is committed to spread awareness of opportunities for women in growing manufacturing sector.
By WiM August 14, 2014

According to Women in Manufacturing (WiM), women are underrepresented in manufacturing not because they are not able, but because they still believe the manufacturing field is a better fit for men. The biggest challenges women face when considering the manufacturing sector are the untrue stigmas that surround manufacturing today. Women in manufacturing are constantly fighting to show modern manufacturing for what it is – a high-tech field with many available jobs well-suited for both men and women workers.

While the U.S. manufacturing sector grows, women working or aspired to work in this field still face unique challenges. Recent data shows that the manufacturing sector in the US has expanded for fourteen straight months with continuous growth. That should be good news for everyone working in the field. But the simple reality is that the number of women working in the sector is not following that trend.Data from the U.S. Commerce Department shows that, although women hold about half of the jobs in the U.S. economy today, they occupy less than 25% of the STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – jobs. In fact, only 30% of the estimated 14 million Americans who work in manufacturing are women.

And the lack of women in the manufacturing sector is problematic. Research shows that there are a staggering number of skilled manufacturing jobs available today and that many are going unfilled because employers are struggling to find qualified workers. This is a problem that cannot be solved by focusing on male employees.

Despite being underrepresented, women who work in the field has expressed high satisfaction level with their jobs. A recent study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute found that women in manufacturing today are pleased with the quality of their jobs and find their careers interesting and rewarding. Importantly, one of the reported reasons for women’s contentment with careers in manufacturing is the ability to balance work and family obligations. With this trend, the industry is expecting to see more top-tier females joining the manufacturing sector. Further, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 2011, the average manufacturing worker in the United States earned $77,060 annually, including pay and benefits. Meanwhile, the average worker in all industries earned $60,168. Beyond good salaries, women are finding other benefits in manufacturing.

Organizations like WiM are dedicated to spreading information about the opportunities available for women in the manufacturing sector today. As part of that effort, WiM is holding its fourth annual SUMMIT event this year in Schaumburg, IL on September 29 – October 1, 2014.

WiM began in November 2009 with a small group of women PMA members to discuss best practices, business conditions, and women’s unique challenges in the field. WiM is a content partner of CFE Media. Edited by Joy Chang, Digital Project Manager, CFE Media, jchang@cfemedia.com