Monday, October 29, 2012

Will Bringing More Women Into Manufacturing Fill the Skills Gap?

Monday's Topic in Motion? Women in Manufacturing

Archaeologists recently discovered the ancient remains of a female metalworker dating back to the Bronze Age, according to the Associated Press.

The Austrian museum who announced the discovery reports that the archaeological find is the first of its kind — "the first indication that women did such work thousands of years ago."

Jonnatha Mayberry, an editor for Product Design & Development Magazine, mentions this in one of her recent columns. She writes, "Today, it is well-known that women work in the manufacturing field, but it is also well-known that women are greatly outnumbered by men on the factory floor."

This benchmark in history makes us wonder, why is there still so few women interested in male dominated industries like manufacturing?

In a recently published article on JS Online, writer Rick Barrett points out that although women make up about half of the U.S. workforce, the number of women in manufacturing is declining. He writes, "Today, only 30% of the estimated 14 million Americans who work in manufacturing are women, and only about 15% of the students enrolled in manufacturing-degree programs are women."

Is the perception of manufacturing so negative that women just aren't interested? So bad that fewer and fewer people want to pursue careers in manufacturing? Is this why so few college students enroll in manufacturing programs?

Pamela Kan, president of Bishop-Wisecarver, touches on this in a blog published earlier this morning: When Did Manufacturing Become a Dirty Word? She asks, "What has happened in our country to make our next generation so turned off by the word manufacturing?

Two women "fighting societal norms" were featured in the Star Tribune back in May of this year. Writer Susan Feyder interviewed Lori and Traci Tapani, co-presidents of Wyoming Machine Inc in Minnesota, who left careers in accounting and finance for the "dirty and dull" manufacturing world.

Feyder writes, "They are part of a budding movement to attract more women into an industry that has been a bright spot in the economic recovery. The Tapanis go to schools and job fairs to encourage more students to consider manufacturing, a career they say offers plenty of opportunity and reward. In the process, they hope to serve as role models."

Tell us what you think! Perhaps convincing more women to consider careers in manufacturing will help to close the skills gap? For more resources about women in manufacturing, check out the following sites:
  • This website offers a host of resources, including information about a summit for women in manufacturing, an informative newsletter and scholarship programs that need support.
  • Here's an online booklet of best practices for women in manufacturing — a 25-page pamphlet published by the National Association of Manufacturers for women in the industry.