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Supply Chain News: Progress in Women in Manufacturing is too Slow


New Report from the Manufacturing Alliance has Advice for Women and Companies

Aug. 9, 2023

Women have been making slow and steady progress in the US manufacturing sector. But it’s not fast enough, and many barriers remain.


That is the short summary of a report this summer on women in manufacturing from The Manufacturing Alliance, an industry research firm.

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Be intentional about recruiting and interviewing. Waiting for women to come to you doesn’t work.

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“While strides have been made in society and in US manufacturing, the sector remains stuck as a predominantly male field,” the forward to the report notes, adding that “It is critical we attract more women to manufacturing. It’s good for business. It’s good for employees. And a key component to solving the talent crisis.”

The foundation of the report is frank conversations with more than two dozen women in the sector (mostly in fairly senior roles in their companies), across many fields, from operations to HR to marketing.

The report first looks at the current state of women in manufacturing.

Women represent 47% of the US workforce overall, but 29% in manufacturing, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only about one in four manufacturing management positions is held by a woman, but that is on par with private sector averages.

The report notes that the number of women in manufacturing overall had been on a slight but steady ascent from 2010-2020. But when the pandemic hit, women were disproportionately affected, accounting for a higher share of manufacturing separations compared to men relative to previous years.

The reasons for this are not clear.

Marching in Place

The report also notes that between 2010 and 2021, manufacturing added less than half a million women to its workforce. By 2031, manufacturing is expected to employ about 12 million overall, and if current trends hold, only about 4 million will be female, or 30% of the sector’s total workforce.

The reality is that “We are marching in place,” the report concludes.

There are certainly major differences in the perspective of men and women on the pace of change.

The chart below in the report, based on a survey associated with this publication, shows 82% of men believe significant progress has been made in providing equal opportunity and pay for women in manufacturing – versus just 38% of women who feel this way.



(See More Below)





The report later says women in manufacturing still face a number of barriers in the workplace. Those include:

• Lack of Flexibility: Especially with regard to family life.

• Unpaid Parental and Family Leave: The US is well behind European countries here.

• Competency Bias: Men are assumed `competent, women have to prove it.

• Being “the Only”: In a department or meeting.

• Being Heard: Making sure that women have a seat at the table and their voices are heard are still obstacles that need to be addressed.

• Discrimination: Outright discrimination is a problem that 59% of the women who took the survey experienced at work.

• Sexual Harassment and Intimidation: Still a big issue.

• Bad Recruiting: Processes could be improved at many companies.

• Unstructured Interviewing: As a next step, recruiters and anyone involved in the interviewing process need to overcome bias, such as trusting men when they’re perceived to be ready for a job, versus expecting women to have a track record of success in the job.

The report also has a number of suggestions on what companies can do themselves.

For example, companies can start benchmarking themselves on flexibility and support for family leave.

Another idea: Be intentional about recruiting and interviewing. Waiting for women to come to you doesn’t work.

Instead, target women’s professional societies and academic groups. Train teams on behavioral interviews. Measure your progress on a dashboard and hold managers accountable.

There is a lot more advice for women and companies in the interesting report. You can download it here with no registration: In Her Own Words

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