Today, women make up about 47% of the overall labor force, and yet only 29% of the manufacturing workforce, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2015. This was a minor increase from 27% the previous year. Especially considering the looming gap between the number of available workers needed and those available, electronics OEMs need to start considering how to identify and nurture female talent. Suggestions on getting more women working in manufacturing, according to Hailey Lynne McKeefry, Editor in Chief, EBN, include:
- Get the corner office involved. For diversity and inclusion programs to get a foothold in the company, senior leaders need to make the program a business priority and lead by example. “You can’t have diversity and inclusion program that stops at the C-level,” said Eshkenazi.
- Tackle the problem head on. Organizations need to raise awareness about the potential organizational benefits to having women represented in the leadership teams and the organization overall. “Look at policies on recruitment and retention to make sure that diversity is a criteria not only in bringing them in but in advancing them,” said Eshkenazi. Some potential benefits: more diverse opinions when making decisions, more balanced organizational management, and improved financial benefit.
- Offer a flexible work environment. The ability to achieve work-life balance benefits all workers but the perceived lack of flexibility is a key factor in deterring women from the manufacturing industry.
- Be a mentor. Whether through a formal program or informal support, mentors are a key element to giving a diversity program teeth. “We need to provide women with advocates within the organization that take responsibility for development and professional progression,” Eshkenazi said.
- Get them young. Manufacturing organizations need to raise awareness early by encouraging female students to consider a career in manufacturing during the high school, or even middle school, years. And, of course, don’t forget colleges. “Manufacturers need to go to schools and tell them what competencies and skillsets are needed,” said Eshkenazi. “The schools will be responsive, because they want to get individuals hired.”
- Give women a chance. Challenging and interesting assignments are a critical piece of what keeps women in the manufacturing industry, the survey respondents reported.