The gender gap in manufacturing is real — but so is the potential for change. Here’s why it makes sense to build a more equitable and inclusive workforce.

It’s 2023, and we’re still talking about the gender gap in the manufacturing industry. 

That’s not to say progress hasn’t been made. More women are working in manufacturing than ever before. Furthermore, industry leaders have seen the value of an inclusive workplace with diverse ideas and viewpoints. Countless studies show that diverse teams are more effective than homogeneous ones. Women bring different life experiences and perspectives to the factory floor, which can lead to more creative problem-solving and innovative thinking.

But for all that, women still only comprise about 30 percent of the 15.8 million people employed in manufacturing. And they earn only 72 percent of the median male salary in the industry. That’s despite manufacturing being increasingly high-tech and women earning more than half the college degrees awarded in the U.S. 

to close the skills gap, close the gender gap

Obviously, this is unfair. Less obviously, it’s bad for the U.S. economy. Legislation like 2022’s CHIPS and Science Act promises to create thousands of well-paid manufacturing jobs. But who will fill them? A recent study by the Manufacturing Institute predicts that the manufacturing skills gap could leave over two million jobs unfilled by 2030, costing the U.S. economy around $1 trillion.

Recruiting more women won’t solve this skills crisis alone — but it’s an excellent place to start. Here are five ways you can work toward gender parity in your organization.

1. prioritize equal pay for equal work

This is not only a matter of fairness but will also help you attract and retain skilled talent. If women are paid less for doing the same work as men, they are less likely to apply for positions and more likely to leave them in a hurry. On the other hand, employees who are paid fairly and feel valued tend to be motivated and committed to their work. This can lead to higher productivity, better quality products and more efficient manufacturing processes.

2. address unconscious bias

Blatant sexism is less common these days than in the past, but unconscious bias remains a barrier to gender equality. It can appear in different forms, such as assumptions about women’s capabilities or preferences or the belief that women are not suited for certain roles. 

Raise awareness of unconscious bias through training and workshops that help employees recognize and understand their biases. You can also implement objective hiring and promotion processes, including standardized interview questions, blind resume reviews and structured performance evaluations.

3. create mentorship and upskilling programs

Pairing female employees with experienced mentors can help them develop their skills, build confidence and establish a supportive network. These relationships can be especially valuable for women who might otherwise lack role models or advocates in the workplace. Additionally, offering training programs that focus on sharpening technical and leadership skills can help women advance in their careers and take on more senior roles.

4. promote work/life balance

Many manufacturing jobs require long hours and a demanding workload. But that doesn’t mean employers can’t be flexible. Arrangements such as part-time or job-sharing positions, remote work options or flextime can help female employees balance their work and personal responsibilities. Again, this is an employee-friendly policy with significant upsides for your business, including improved worker engagement, loyalty and productivity. 

5. work with a strategic partner

Most manufacturing leaders already know that a diverse workforce is good for business. If closing the gender gap were easy, they’d have done it already. To speed up progress in this area, consider working with an organization specializing in gender equity or diversity recruitment strategies. For example, the Manufacturing Institute’s Women MAKE American Initiative is working with employers and job seekers to add half a million women to the manufacturing workforce by 2030.

We can help, too. Get in touch with Randstad today and put our team of talent experts to work supporting your diversity goals.