Tuesday was International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.
Unfortunately, I work in one of the industries where we have trouble experiencing advances and achievements by women.
The world is slightly more men than women (50.4 vs 49.6). The United States is the opposite, more women than men (51 vs 49) and has been for a long time.
Yet, in the Manufacturing community, the ratio is not only reversed but despairingly stunted on the women side. Only 33% (as of 2020*)of the manufacturing workforce is women and has been like that for a long time.
I have worked with women in the dozen different manufacturing companies I have been at, but I can count on one hand how many of those women were engineers. It would only take both hands to count how many were in leadership positions.
Interesting enough, when you compare their numbers, a higher percentage of women have bachelor’s degrees than compared to the men that have bachelor’s degrees when each is compared to their total population.
This problem goes way beyond the issue of recruitment, although in that same study*, 40% of Human Resource staff who responded to the Benchmark Study revealed that their company does not currently use any gender-balanced hiring practices.
The problem goes to encouraging and mentoring young females through their formative years. Many studies over the years show girls get better grades than boys do at all ages, including in math and science.
One analysis** of grades covering 1.6 million elementary, high school and university students shows that girls outperform boys at all ages. This includes science, technology, engineering and math subjects, the Australian researchers said. “Simulations of these differences suggest the top 10 percent of a class contains equal numbers of girls and boys in STEM, but more girls in non-STEM subjects” they said.
Mentoring and education regarding the opportunities in science, engineering and manufacturing are essential to helping young women recognize their possible career paths.
At PlastiCert we have engaged regularly with high school and even middle school students, highlighting the opportunities to both men AND women in manufacturing. To date, only 14% of PlastiCert coworkers are women, but one is in a senior leadership position. One of the brightest engineering interns we have ever had is now working the medical manufacturing field in Ireland. She has been VERY successful, and we have watched her career progress from afar. Our problem with increasing our percentage is purely based in the lack of women pursuing the openings we have. Going forward we’ll continue talking with young people and urging young women to pursue their STEM education and consider manufacturing as a career.
* A 2020 Thomas Industrial Survey Report in collaboration with the national trade association, Women in Manufacturing, established a benchmark for diversity and business best practices in the manufacturing sector.
** From “Gender differences in individual variation in academic grades fail to fit expected patterns for STEM”, Nature Communications.