Study: Women an untapped talent pool for manufacturers

The long-standing assumption with manufacturing jobs is, as James Brown would say, it’s a man’s world. However, while a talent shortage caused by retiring baby boomers is pressing manufacturers to find new avenues for recruitment, many have ignored the opportunity to hire women when it comes to employment decisions. Those that do are stunting their business growth, talent acquisition and the integration of women into more manufacturing jobs, a new study says. Working with manufacturing recruiters that provide equal opportunities for employment can sufficiently improve a firm’s hiring plans.

Hiring more women a solution to talent gap
Because of manufacturing’s perception as a male-dominated industry, a majority of respondents in a survey by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute said businesses could vastly improve their approach to vetting and hiring women. Eighty percent of surveyed individuals believe manufacturing firms can do better at recruiting women and just 20 percent believe manufacturing does a good job at attracting enough women to employment opportunities in the industry.

The sentiment is largely derived from the traditional idea that manufacturing jobs are exclusively for men. Fifty-one percent thought the male-favored culture in manufacturing was a major factor behind the underrepresentation of women in the industry. In that same vein, 70 percent of respondents said they would recommend a job in manufacturing to a son or male relative, while only 55 percent would make the same recommendation to a daughter or female relative.

Overall, women are employed in significantly fewer jobs in manufacturing than they are in the U.S. business community as a whole. While women represent 3.8 percent of CEOs in U.S. business, they make up 2 percent of manufacturing top executives. Fourteen percent of U.S. executive officers are women, but only 11 percent of manufacturing senior management are.

That disparity was further exposed when looking at workforce numbers. Women represent 46.6 percent of the U.S. workforce, but just 24.8 percent of total manufacturing employment.

What can be done?
As the study noted, up to 600,000 manufacturing jobs are unfilled and 70 percent of companies report a moderate to severe talent shortage as a main obstacle to hiring plan fulfillment.

So what can firms do to attract more women employees? The report suggested change has to start at the top. Diversity needs to be stressed by the C-suite and possible gender biases in the company need to be addressed and eliminated. It also urged businesses to create a more flexible workplace, foster mentor and sponsorship programs and build a strong employer brand. In addition to completing these steps, companies can work with manufacturing recruiters to locate top talent among available women workers.