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Equality Grows Revenue.

What Are You Waiting For?

Only a quarter of manufacturing leaders are women. While disheartening, this aligns with assessments that women hold only 25% of C-suite roles across eight sectors, including industrial. In early 2020, prior to the pandemic, women accounted for 50.04% of U.S. jobs, so why is their representation in leadership halved?

Cue forward to March 2020 and beyond: The COVID-19 pandemic created a new set of challenges. Last month, Vice President Kamala Harris wrote that “The Exodus of Women from the Workforce is a National Emergency.” Approximately 2.5 million women have either lost their jobs or had to take themselves out of the workforce. The jobs lost are disproportionately accounted for by minorities and lower-wage workers, and this will have a long-term effect on the available pool for those rising in the ranks to eventual leadership positions.

As March 8 celebrates International Women’s Day, it appears we have much to do. How do we do better for women at all levels of manufacturing? And grow representation at the top?

Women’s participation in manufacturing remains relatively unchanged from the 1970s. Let’s dive a little deeper into how manufacturers could increase women’s participation.

  • Intention and representation matter. Studies have found that both male and female leaders are more likely to model behaviors for the improvements they wish to implement and empower change. This is something a manufacturing leader of any gender can embrace. Despite their few numbers, powerful female manufacturing CEOs are helping to pave the way.
  • Start at the top – but don’t stop there. A major pharmaceutical and consumer goods company had top-level initiatives to recruit and retain women. Forty-five percent of their U.S. employees and 40% of senior managers are women, far above their peers. Get your Chair, Board, and C-level leadership to truly walk the walk and not simply pay lip service to diversity and inclusion efforts.
  • It’s all about the brand. How do women view your company? Does it seem like a welcoming place for all? As women have taken on more of the caregiving duties since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, does your company reflect a culture of work-life balance or little to no flexibility? Less prominent but significant, manufacturing still faces a stigma of dirty, dangerous, and labor-intensive that is outdated.
  • Get a bigger pool. With women only representing approximately 29% of the manufacturing workforce and 27% of STEM workers, they have a smaller pool to potentially rise to the ranks of leadership. And it’s not from lack of education. Women earn more bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees than men. With two million skilled workers needed in the U.S. manufacturing sector, women can certainly help fill the need.

Can we help future-proof workforce equality in manufacturing? As we face a national emergency of women leaving the workforce, we must create a sector with a new identity that appeals to women and other minorities. And it benefits not only society but also companies’ bottom lines. A 2018 study found that “companies that have more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue due to innovation.” The S&P Global notes that “increased female labor participation could accelerate U.S. GDP growth, adding a staggering $5.87 trillion to the global stock market in 10 years.” Take that to your shareholders.