Across the total U.S. labor force, women earn more than half of the associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the U.S. Once in the workforce, they are advancing in their careers, holding managerial and professional positions. However, although women make up slightly less than half of the labor force, they only make up a little over 25 percent of the manufacturing workforce.


To help promote the role of women in manufacturing, The Manufacturing Institute created a STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Ahead initiative to encourage women to pursue manufacturing as a career by showcasing the interesting and rewarding careers that the industry has to offer. The initiative, launched in 2012, celebrates women in the manufacturing industry who are making a difference through advocacy, mentorship, engagement, promotion and leadership, The Manufacturing Institute explains.


The STEP Ahead Awards highlight the achievements of women at all levels of manufacturing—from the factory floor to the C-suite. As the Institute explains, the awards put a spotlight on the widespread impact women have on shaping the industry, whether they are running the company, designing the next big product or testing innovations on the shop floor. They also further encourage women to mentor and support the next generation of female talent pursuing manufacturing careers.


The Manufacturing Institute has announced that the 2017 STEP Ahead Award nominations are now open. Nominations, which close October 7, 2016, help raise awareness, support the industry and help grow the future workforce. This year, the STEP Ahead theme will focus on impact—how, what the Institute calls the STEP army of 500+ women, make a difference in their companies and communities.


In 2017, the Institute will honor 100 women and 30 Emerging Leaders, a category introduced to honor women under the age of 30 who have achieved unique accomplishments at the start of their careers. Nominees will be selected by The Manufacturing Institute STEP Awards Review Committee based on specific contributions or technical achievements the nominee has made for her company, past experiences that have shaped her and her accomplishments in manufacturing, unique talents/abilities that distinguish her from her peers, and commitment to her community. The 2017 STEP Ahead Awards conference will take place April 19-21, and the Awards Dinner will take place April 20 in Washington, D.C.


Information about nominating a leading woman from your company for this national honor can be found here:


The Manufacturing Institute, in partnership with Alcoa Foundation, has also created what it calls a “STEP Forward” networking series for women in manufacturing. These meetings are held with manufacturers to discuss current strategies and develop new concepts for advancing and retaining female talent. Women hear from industry leaders, connect with peers and learn best practices they can take back to their company.


Another aspect of the STEP Ahead initiative is the STEP Ahead pledge, which the Institute says encourages women in manufacturing to promote the importance of a diverse workforce in the manufacturing industry and commit to encouraging women to pursue manufacturing careers and help them succeed through a variety of actions, including advocating for the manufacturing industry; mentoring young women/girls; developing or joining an affinity group to generate ideas and share best practices; being an ambassador for manufacturing education; or promoting personal development.


What do you think of the STEP Ahead initiative? Are there any women you will nominate for the STEP Ahead award?