While the U.S. manufacturing industry seems to be in the midst of an economic resurgence, the industry’s ongoing skills gap effects as much as 80 percent of manufacturers, and is further exacerbated by the underrepresentation of women.


“The skills shortage facing U.S. manufacturers is apparent and the underrepresentation of women only contributes to the gap,” says Jennifer McNelly, president of The Manufacturing Institute. “We must empower each other as ambassadors of the industry so we can inspire the next-generation of young women to pursue manufacturing careers and encourage current female talent within the industry.”


Building on their previous women in manufacturing research, The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte held an executive roundtable earlier this year. Senior executives representing automotive, aerospace and defense, process and diversified manufacturing discussed how manufacturers can best attract, retain and advance talented women in the manufacturing industry. They focused on the C-suite’s role in changing the corporate culture in the manufacturing industry, the American public’s perception of the industry, and how companies can create a strong employer brand. In particular, they discussed the significant concerns they all have about finding enough talent to drive their organizations in the future and how vitally important women are to addressing that concern.


That roundtable is the basis for a new study, “Celebrating success, achievement and potential of women in manufacturing: A leadership view of overcoming the talent crisis and filling the skills gap.” The paper, from Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, details challenges and opportunities to integrate more women into the manufacturing workforce.


The executives at the roundtable responded to key questions such as:


•How can manufacturers improve the recruiting process of women and how far back into the “pipeline” do they need to go?


•What initiatives can companies take to encourage the personal development and professional progression of women?


•How can manufacturers support women in the industry and retain female workers?


Manufacturing executives suggested several strategies to help close the gender gap. One key strategy is to integrate women into the corporate strategy to lead a strategic cultural change while ensuring men are equally involved and committed to the efforts. Another step is to share leading practices and be proactive in providing resources to inform, educate and mentor women. The executives believe companies should use affinity groups to generate ideas, motivate peers and give/receive guidance. Another key strategy discussed by the executives is to engage The Manufacturing Institute’s STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Ahead initiative to honor and promote the role of women in the manufacturing industry through recognition, research and leadership.


I was also interested this week to see Kinaxis recently sponsored a webinar titled, “Mentoring, Sponsorship, & Quotas: What are their relative merits in bringing more women into supply chain management?”


Lora Cecere, founder, Supply Chain Insights, facilitated the webinar, when she and a panel of accomplished supply chain practitioners discussed the issues of mentoring, sponsorship, and quotas as mechanisms to get more women into supply chain, and perhaps more importantly, the relative merits and drawbacks of these approaches.


Members of the panel were: Verda Blythe, Director, Grainger Center for Supply Chain Management, Wisconsin School of Business; Laura Dionne, Director, Worldwide Operations Planning, TriQuint; Elisabeth Kaszas, Director, Supply Chain, Amgen Inc.; and Shellie Molina, VP, Global Supply Chain, First Solar.


For some interesting insight and great advice, be sure to check out Lora’s blog post, in which she recaps some key parts of the webinar. To receive the recorded presentation, be sure to register here.


What do you think of the strategies and approaches in the study and webinar?