Once, women were a much more common sight on manufacturing lines than they are today. The image of the 1940’s woman showing her arm muscle, known as Rosie the Riveter, highlights the important roles women filled as skilled labor during WWII working as industrial welders and riveters. Yet, women in today’s manufacturing industry fill a wide array of roles which including pipe fitters, welders, engineers, machinists and tool and diemakers.
While women are still a moderate part of the industry workforce claiming over a quarter of paid positions in the manufacturing sector, there is some concern that these numbers seem to be dwindling which compounds the uneasiness with the “skills gap” cited by companies in search of qualified employees and the fear of the baby boomers en masse retirement looming in the near future. Additionally, some concern is being raised about the notable decline from the large percentage of women in manufacturing in 1971 to the numbers of today.
Here are 2 main reasons why women are not as widely encompassing the skilled labor force in manufacturing as they did decades ago:
- There is a lack of early exposure to the manufacturing industry in educational settings. As more high school shop classes are cancelled every year and fewer colleges push their manufacturing and engineering programs, less members of the female population are provided with the opportunity to explore the world of manufacturing in an educational setting.
- Companies are focusing on hiring experienced candidates that fit their predetermined employee profile. While this is not an issue related specifically to women, it most certainly impacts a woman’s ability to find employment if she holds only an entry level body of experience. To close the skills gap, companies must provide on-site training opportunities to invest in candidates that demonstrate the preferred work ethic. During WWII, companies focused on training their new workforce and, as a result, were substantially productive and exceedingly efficient largely due to their majority female workforce.
As more women realize they can, in fact, contribute a valuable skillet, solid work ethic and ingenuity to the manufacturing industry, the time of women serving as skilled labor in vast numbers will return and the manufacturing companies will greatly benefit from their expanded female workforce.
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