WALKING THE WALK: 5 Simple Actions to Recruit More Women into Manufacturing and Close the Gender Gap

The manufacturing industry is currently experiencing a shortage of women in the workforce, representing only 24 percent of the manufacturing labor force. Women are the missing element in closing the skills gap and increasing the industry’s competitiveness. In order to attract more women into this industry there are several best practices that can be implemented.

TALK One of the most significant changes manufacturers can make is to break the negative connotations associated with the industry. Sending executive and leading women to recruit next-generation workers can help break down these false perceptions. Targeting women graduates with strong STEM skills and supporting STEM education initiatives will increase the likelihood in recruiting women into the industry. Recruiters should stress to women the advantages of becoming role models as career-oriented women.

ALIGN In an organization, senior leaders and executives must be united on the priority of promoting women in the manufacturing industry. Senior leaders should communicate their company’s progress toward meeting this goal to diversify their organization. Transparency is key.

CHANGE Organizations need to break the stereotype that associates only men with leadership qualities. Implementing training to address this issue head-on is a great way for others to become aware of their own unconscious gender biases, and in turn, encourage impartial actions and decisions.

ADJUST Manufacturers that create a flexible work environment will attract more workers in general. Women and men both look for flexibility in the workplace, which can be achieved by creating a “results-driven” environment. This means rewarding workers that produce results regardless of when or where the work is being done, allowing time for employees to balance their personal needs as well. While safety is the priority and not every work environment allows for such flexibility, any effort to be adaptable is recognized and appreciated.

SPONSOR Creating sponsors within an organization helps support the promotion of women into leadership positions. A sponsor is a mentor, a coach and a vocal advocate for an individual who can assist with a person’s professional development. In order to develop professionally, women should be provided with a clear understanding of the leadership and technical skills required for specific positions. This will allow women to lay out specific goals to improve and work towards. Think about encouraging men to be sponsors, you can help break additional barriers and biases.

Women are vital to the growth and profitability of the manufacturing industry. Seventy-five percent of women agree that a career in manufacturing is interesting and rewarding. Women represent manufacturing’s largest pool of untapped talent, which makes them a critical factor in closing the skills gap. These best practices can help organizations around the nation attract more women into the industry and make your organization a leading company in the manufacturing world.

For more information, please check out our reports on women in manufacturing here.

Tips for Encouraging a Girl in STEM

Assume she is interested in science, technology, engineering, and math. Ask her what classes she is taking and what she is learning.

Ask her how she feels about the science she is learning in school. Find out if there are any teachers or counselors who are particularly supportive. Encourage her to seek them out and go to them for advice or help with school work. Try to connect with them yourself to find out about what kind of support they are offering and if there is more they could do for her.

If a girl expresses concern about getting messy or dirty, help her get past this “eek and yuck” response. Encourage her to think “interesting” and “fascinating” rather than — or along with — “ew, gross.” Help her take small steps to become more comfortable with STEM content and materials. Reflect with her about how some of the biggest messes or mistakes can lead to great

Ask her about her plans for the future. Encourage her to explore fields of work that are not traditionally associated with women.

Introduce her to a variety of role models — especially women — so that she does not limit her

Ask questions about how things might work, and then join her in brainstorming ideas and

Consider your own feelings about math and science and encourage her pursuit of these subjects even if they were difficult for you as a student.

Teach her to replace “I can’t” with “I’ll try” or “I don’t know how. Who can help me learn?”

Encourage persistence. Help her understand that making mistakes is a vital part of STEM, and that making mistakes does not mean that someone is not “good at science”.

Ask her about how she views scientists and what she sees as “science.” Partner with her to discover how STEM is a part of everyday life, that STEM really is everywhere. Help her connect with a local female STEM professional to learn more about the various fields that are exciting opportunities for her future.

Visit a museum, business, or factory together to see real-world uses for math and science.

STEM Role Models 101

By: Roshni Kasad, Program Manager at Techbridge

Did you know that less than 60% of girls have even met someone in a STEM career? What a missed opportunity. It turns out that when given the chance to meet a woman in STEM, ninety-three percent of girls are more interested in working in science, technology, or engineering. Do you want to be that woman who makes an impact on a girl’s career choice and be one of the Million Women Mentors who helps close the gender gap in STEM? If so, congratulations! We welcome your commitment and
enthusiasm.

Once you’ve made the decision to become a role model, the next step is to think through what you need to do to make the biggest impact. At Techbridge, our mission is to inspire more girls in STEM fields, and we know how important you are to the equation. To support you in being an effective role model, we’ve developed a number of resources including our online Role Models Matter Toolkit and accompanying guides. Here are our top three STEM role model tips to keep in mind:

1. Dispel stereotypes – When we ask girls to draw images of what a scientist looks like, they often come up with images like the “Before” one found here. Just by showing up, you’re breaking the stereotype, but make sure to go even further. Talk with girls about the real-world impact you make on a daily basis as a STEM professional. Share how what you do directly affects the lives of the girls you’re talking to. And don’t forget to mention all the fun things you do outside of work so that girls realize you can be a well-rounded person and be a scientist or engineer. For more tips on this, check out Sharing About You in our Toolkit.

2. Make it hands-on – Girls don’t want to just hear you talk about STEM – they want to dive deep into it. So make sure you’re prepared to help them experience STEM projects firsthand. For some activity ideas, go here, and for some tips on how to make the most out of it, check out the Engineering Design Process, the Art of Questioning, and Giving Girls Feedback in our Toolkit.

3. Share your passion – Research shows that it’s not about the grades you get in your science and math classes that predicts whether you’ll go into a STEM career. It’s about whether you’re interested in and exposed to the topic at a young age. What better way to get girls interested and engaged in STEM than by showing them how much you love it! File away your stiff boardroom demeanor and get ready to relax and let your enthusiasm about STEM ring loud and clear for girls. For more tips, check out STEM Messaging in our Toolkit.

At the end of the day, we want every girl to have met a women in STEM like yourself and to take away messages like this one from a 5th grade girl, “The way engineers help people is just amazing, and to learn about someone in that job is more amazing.”