Funny how an old story can become new again. A recent Forbes article on the topic of women in manufacturing recently made the rounds on social media sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter. But this article might give the impression that women working in the manufacturing industry is something new, when it is not.
For decades, women have played an integral, yet underrepresented, role within the industry. Back in the early 2000s, women sought to provide a welcoming environment for other women in what has always been a male-dominated industry. This resulted in a national and global trade association known today as Women in Manufacturing, an organization dedicated to providing year-round support for women with a career in manufacturing.
Groups such as Women in Manufacturing not only provide support to other females within the industry, but they also serve as mentors and role models to younger generations of females. These efforts include introducing girls to STEM classes as early as elementary school to dispel long-held perceptions that math and science are not for girls.
This grassroots movements are incredibly important because women are still underrepresented in the industry when compared to the general workforce. There are 17% fewer women in manufacturing as compared to the general workforce. The good news is the industry has a strong platform to build from now and in the future.
Forbes contributor Lisa Caldwell found that of the 12.1 million people in manufacturing (U.S. Census Bureau data), only 30% of the jobs are held by women. While these numbers represent a boost after a period of decline in the early 2000s, there is still plenty of opportunity for women within the industry and much more work still to do.
Such efforts are further strengthened as manufacturing continues to rebrand itself as an industry of automation and technology. Manufacturing roles stress the ability for women to find a career that emphasizes innovation, problem solving, adaptability and collaboration. The author points out that these attributes also strongly align with what women look for in a career.