Manufacturing Recruiting: Increasing Women in Manufacturing

By Jeanette Coleman, SPHR & SHRM-SCP on May 09, 2023
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Change is constant on the manufacturing floor. From increased automation and diversified supply chains to reshoring inventories and more, the industry is in a continual state of evolution. Manufacturing companies know they must adapt to be competitive.  

The same applies to the manufacturing workforce. It’s estimated there will be 4 million unfilled manufacturing jobs by 2030. Long a male-dominated industry, manufacturing has a compelling need to look beyond traditional job candidates to fill the skilled talent gap.

Manufacturing companies now are working toward tapping a pool that historically has made up a small segment of factories’ workforces, except during wartime: women.   

second chance hiring manufacturing

Women are half of the population but represent only about 29% of workers in manufacturing. Increasing that percentage to just 35% would bring 800,000 workers to the industry, enough to fill almost all the current openings, according to a November 2022 study by The Manufacturing Institute. And, while women are the minority in manufacturing positions, they are advancing in managerial and professional roles in other industries that could transfer just fine. 

Greater gender diversity also has proven benefits for all types of businesses, including manufacturing. Research shows there is a link between women workers and a company’s ability to innovate, raise ROI and increase profitability. A manufacturing company is more likely to succeed if leaders deliberately diversify their workforce.  

The question is, what methods will help attract more women to the manufacturing floor? The labor shortage isn’t expected to improve for at least a decade.

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Manufacturing companies will need to overhaul their routine recruiting strategies to appeal to women specifically. Because diversifying will be a dynamic process, tactics will need to evolve over time but have strategic staying power. 

Women in Manufacturing Association (WiM) President and Founder Allison Grealis recommends the following 10 steps manufacturing companies can take to improve their recruiting of female candidates. 

Root Female Recruiting in Intentionality 

Set goals and deadlines for expanding your workforce demographics and be purposeful about how many women you hope to hire and where they will work in the organization. 

mental health in manufacturing

Rebrand Your Workforce Image 

Changing your company’s image to appeal to female workers calls for literally changing images. Feature women in all your recruiting materials, including your website, signage, advertising, videos and social media content. 

Recruiting messages should convey that your manufacturing firm offers an environment attractive to women. Female candidates tend to be drawn by a workplace that is more collaborative than competitive, for instance.

Describe how employees work together in teams to accomplish goals. Include compelling demonstrations of how successful women can be in your company and/or in the manufacturing field by increasing the visibility of female leaders. If your company does not have women leaders yet, tell the stories of women in the industry. 

Women often are drawn to interesting and rewarding careers more than to jobs themselves. Stress opportunities for growth and development.

Highlight the importance of your company’s work and the exciting changes afoot. Spell out exactly how women can advance in your company and how the company will upskill women through training, mentoring and on-the-job experiences. 

Pay Equity Audit

Revisit Your Salary Structure 

Surveys show that, while money isn’t everything, equal pay is a top priority for women. Make sure every position offers competitive salaries on par with men. Make it clear in your recruiting tactics that women in manufacturing at your company are paid competitively

Ramp Up Flexibility and Family Friendliness 

Work/life balance is another priority for women, so flexibility should be the rule, not the exception. Offer options for PTO, holiday and family leave, flexible shift hours and other opportunities for female (and all) employees to gain a sense of control over managing their time. 

The Manufacturing Institute study showed that lack of childcare ranked as one of the top challenges facing women. In your efforts to recruit female workers, consider how your company might address this issue. Onsite childcare may not be feasible for your smaller manufacturing organization, but you might be able to subsidize employees’ childcare costs. 

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Rewrite Job Postings

It’s important to know how your target candidates think and see themselves as they consider job openings. Women take job descriptions more literally than men do and tend to be hired for their track records, whereas men are hired for their potential.

This means women often will not even consider jobs for which they are not completely qualified. It may be difficult to find female candidates with enough specific industry experience to meet some traditional requirements.

Consider minimizing some job requirements, such as years of experience, and move these to a “preferred” or “desired” category. This will open the field to more women with the potential to be trained in your requirements. 

Watch your language in all communications. Words like assertive, competitive and determined have masculine connotations. Switch these out with words that describe women’s strengths and values, like responsible, connected, dedicated and supportive. Talk with a human resources expert at Axcet HR Solutions to make sure your job ads don’t use language that deters women from applying. 

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Redefine Your Culture 

Manufacturing workplaces must offer supportive environments to appeal to women. That starts and continues with leadership that sets these expectations and demonstrates them by example. 

Strive for a positive culture that encourages collaboration and respect. Invite men on staff to be allies and advocates. Engage them in the changes that must come. When challenges arise, as they may, call on the male allies to reinforce the importance of a more diverse workplace. 

Revamp Workspaces 

Some changes to the physical environment will be necessary, as well. For example, you may want to consider women-only restrooms and, if relevant, locker rooms. Check to see if there are any inappropriate messages on walls or bulletin boards that need to be removed. 

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Retain Talent 

Every manager understands that hiring is just the first step in building a strong workforce. Keeping talent around is as important as – and more cost-effective than – the hire. 

Align new female employees with seasoned female colleagues to serve as mentors or factory-floor supporters. If you don’t have tenured women on staff to serve those roles, create a path for women to be mentored in other ways, such as creating a forum for them to meet together regularly with a sponsor who is a company leader or pairing them with male leader-mentors who are advocates of greater gender diversity in the workplace. 

Be transparent about changes and how they will affect jobs and careers. Share the possibilities for future roles coming through automation, cybersecurity and other transformations. Offer new pathways to help promising female employees who are facing career plateaus to advance in unexpected ways. 

Recognize success and follow it up with support. Women often leave a job after a promotion if they do not feel adequate in their new role. Provide positive feedback, support, training and resources as they progress in their new positions. 

Reward Recruiting 

Word-of-mouth referrals can lead to some of the best hires. Ask both men and women to make recommendations, offering them incentives for candidates who get hired. 

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Reach Out Far and Wide 

If your company has a presence on social media, including LinkedIn, include periodic content that communicates the benefits of manufacturing careers for women generally and at your business in particular. Develop or maintain visibility in professional networks and industry groups that draw women, such as Women in Manufacturing

Overcoming a gender deficit in the workplace has many rewards beyond just filling jobs. Making necessary changes to attract more women to manufacturing will pay dividends for your entire workforce, your customers and the industry as a whole.  

Request a consultation to learn how Axcet’s professionals can help you customize a recruiting strategy to attract more women employees. 

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