Although much has been said about the age gap in manufacturing, the gender gap has been less emphasised. However, closing the gender gap provides a potential solution to the ageing workforce facing manufacturers. Plus, organisations that are gender diverse report 19 per cent higher revenues and greater productivity. Organisations that actively look for female candidates also benefit from a wider talent pool – they’re not limiting themselves to a narrow selection of recruits.
Yet, the number of women available to manufacturers are in short supply. 57 per cent of children believe that engineering is more geared towards boys and female grad students have stagnated since 2012. That’s despite 84 per cent of female engineers reporting high job satisfaction in their careers.
The message that manufacturing is a desirable, rewarding career option for women is not filtering down.
There must be strong female role models who are willing to inspire the next generation. Organisations that get involved at ground-roots level, will build a long-term pipeline of engaged talent.
Another perception that’s putting women off is the long and inflexible hours linked to manufacturing. Women outside the industry have a mistaken impression that manufacturing involves endless hours, manual work and assembly lines. Because of this, almost 75 per cent of women would not consider a role in manufacturing.
To attract female talent, organisations must highlight the many working options and roles on offer. Showing ‘A Day in the Life’ of female engineers can help break this stereotype. Offering flexible hours and the option to job-share can also help more females break into the industry. In fact, all employees would benefit from flexible hours. 70 per cent of people want this option offered by their employers.
A diverse and inclusive culture is attractive to female candidates and will set a manufacturer apart from the competition. This starts at the top. Leadership must be fully bought-in with any diversity initiatives. Ideally, they’d reflect a diverse workforce, but at the least, will be aware of the unique challenges and biases facing different employee groups.
Mentorship programmes can help female talent thrive and climb the career ladder. Sponsorship from male colleagues is key. Equally important is encouraging female employees to grow their networks. Through specialist networking groups as well as the wider industry.
A recent ‘Forward Ladies’ report uncovered a significant pay gap within manufacturing. Not only between male and female employees but also white women and ethnic minority females.
Tackling gender pay gaps is critical to attracting and retaining female engineers. Pay must be a level playing field. Significant pay gaps will impact reputation and recruitment efforts. Leading to higher expense in the long run.
A lack of promotion opportunities is a top reason for many females to leave manufacturing. Several report a feeling that the performance standards for men and women are different. Organisations must ensure clear promotion and career routes for female employees. Knowing what’s their next step, and the things that they must do to achieve it, will be a strong motivator.
Returner programmes will also help. Many women leave work to start a family and may not return for many years. But they are still a valuable source of talent. Forward-thinking organisations have ways for women to re-enter their profession when ready.
Although there’s much to do, it’ll be worth the extra effort in the end. Manufacturing faces an increasing skills shortage. So, it makes sense to recruit from as wide a talent pool as possible – and to retain skilled workers.
For manufacturers, overlooking female employees is a short-sighted approach. Those that don’t fit in, will leave. Not just for a competitor, but the industry as a whole – and that’s bad for everyone.
Need some help with hiring the next great leader in your manufacturing or engineering company? Contact Theo James Recruitment for specialist recruiters in your industry.