The Widening Gender Gap in Manufacturing

There has been so much talk in professional circles of the gender gap when it comes to industries such as engineering and computer science. However, one segment of American industry that goes largely unexamined in terms of women in the workplace is manufacturing. Battling against strongly held but outdated beliefs, women are entering the manufacturing sector but the gender gap is still widening. What are the reasons that manufacturing is still a predominantly male-focused industry? And, ultimately, what can businesses do to close the gap? Here is a closer look at the gender gap in manufacturing.

  1. The gap in manufacturing by the numbers. Since 2010, hiring in the manufacturing sector has increased. At all levels, from production to executive level careers, men have seen a 7% increase in hiring over the last 5 years. Women, however, have actually seen a decrease. In the same time, new jobs for women in manufacturing have decreased by .03%. The total number of female employees in manufacturing has dropped to 27% from its highest point in the 90s at 32%.
  2. Offshoring has impacted women centered manufacturing. Industry such as clothing manufacturing has faced a loss of opportunities in the United States as big companies are moving this production to other countries in search of cheaper labor. By the end of 2013 women working in apparel manufacturing was down to 92,000 from 740,000 in early 1990. The industries that are growing in the United States are centered on heavy labor which has traditionally employed more men than women on production lines.
  3. Pay inequity for women in the workplace. Manufacturing jobs tend to pay more, on average, than service industry jobs such as retail and serving where women make up a higher percentage of the workforce. In fact, these jobs pay up to 17% higher than non-manufacturing jobs. This inequality in the workplace begins at an early age as boys are more likely to be encouraged to pursue math, science, and engineering education.
  4. Employers missing out on skilled individuals. Many women, especially those displaced during the recession, have extensive manufacturing skills that can be re-purposed for other functions within a production environment. The increasing skills gap that is affecting American manufacturing organizations can be lessened if hiring managers were willing to pursue out of the box candidates who could be easily trained on the specific functions of the production.

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