June 2

Women in Manufacturing

Why aren’t more women seeking careers in manufacturing?

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, even though women make up about 50% of the U.S. workforce, they only constitute about 24% of the manufacturing workforce.  Why is there such a disparity?

A quick internet search yields many theories (See here and here). The industry has a poor image of being dull, dark, dirty and dangerous. It’s a man’s a job because it’s physically demanding. Girls aren’t exposed to manufacturing as a possible career in school.

If women aren’t interested in manufacturing, why should manufacturers, educators and parents try to change that? Why does it matter?

According to the Aspen Institute (Why Women Are Essential to the Future of US Manufacturing, Mar 17, 2014), there are a few reasons. First, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that there are about 300,000 job openings in manufacturing, and employer-based surveys often show double that number. Second, the manufacturing workforce is aging, and employers say that younger workers do not have the right skills to fill those open jobs. And finally, women consistently outperform men in earning higher credentials meaning that young women are more likely to obtain needed skills than their male counterparts.

Next, we must ask ourselves if the image of manufacturing is accurate. Today’s manufacturing plant is nothing like the factories of the previous generation. Manufacturing is becoming more advanced every day. Many factory floors are as clean as or cleaner than a hospital. Much production work has been automated and computerized.

Manufacturing can be a solid career choice for modern women. It provides a pathway to the middle class and has good pay and benefits. The industry is working to change its image among all youth, but especially among young women. Only time will tell if the message is getting through.

Why do you think that more women don’t seek careers in manufacturing? What do you think employers and educators can do to change that?

-Rebekah Hutton, Director of Strategic Initiatives (MSSC)

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