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How Manufacturers Can Attract More Women Talent

How Manufacturers Can Attract More Women Talent

If women are under-represented in your organization, what would a better balance look like? Which departments are particularly in need of change?

A man wearing a hard hat, driving a forklift filled with raw materials across a factory floor.

A long row of men putting the finishing touches on products coming off an assembly line.

Another group of men sorting inventory within a warehouse.

A pair of men shaking hands as the final terms of a supplier contract are finalized.

These were all the standard images that might have first come to mind when someone said the word “manufacturing” a decade ago. Since then, a lot has changed – but the proportion of women entering those pictures has not changed nearly enough.

As recently as 2019, for example, research showed that women made up just 28% of those employed in manufacturing companies across Canada.

Contrast that with the close to half (47.4%) of manufacturers who recently told StatsCan they expect to struggle in their search for skilled workers over the next several months.

On the one hand, taking proactive steps to attract more women to manufacturing roles is great from a pure diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) standpoint. What some firms might not realize, however, is the extent to which cultivating a more diverse and equal workforce can impact the bottom line.

A greater mix of people can boost employee engagement, for instance, which in turn can fuel productivity, efficiency and agility. When customers see more women within manufacturing, meanwhile, they may see companies operating in greater alignment with their values, which can nurture loyalty and even a greater share of wallet versus their competitors.

This change within the manufacturing sector won’t happen on its own. It requires real leadership, and an ongoing commitment to reevaluating the potential barriers for women and making changes that help welcome them into the fold. Consider what might be necessary in terms of training your existing staff, HR policies, and how to adapt as your company culture evolves.

Set A Target, And Make It Transparent To All

Manufacturers don’t achieve growth by passively waiting to see what kind of business comes their way. Much like companies in other sectors, they develop specific goals and create sales and marketing strategies that ensure they meet their number.

It should be no different in terms of diversifying your workforce. If women are under-represented in your organization, what would a better balance look like? Which departments are particularly in need of change?

Put those numbers against your overall hiring needs, and the budget you’ve allotted for recruitment. Now you’ll have a target you can shoot towards, measuring your progress along the way.

Create And Showcase A Vision Of Your Future Workforce

Those images of men within manufacturing mentioned at the beginning of this post were once the most recurring characters in stock art about the industry. One step towards changing how your staff looks is by making visible changes in your marketing.

This not only includes the signage or displays you put up at recruitment fairs. People should also start seeing more female faces within the materials you post on your web site, across social media and anywhere else that represents your brand.

Identify And Develop Your Internal Sponsors

As women get hired and onboarded, look to those within your existing ranks who can have a positive influence in shaping their experience. Some of these people might be managers or executives. Others might be within their peer group.

While these employees might be active in mentoring women, they should also be developed as sponsors – people who will advocate for women within manufacturing when it’s time to pick someone to run a new initiative or get the next promotion.

Let Female Talent Shine Beyond The Factory Floor

Women may become more attracted to manufacturing jobs when they see more of their peers in the kind of settings where men have traditionally contributed to industry discussions. This could include having female members of your team speaking on panels at manufacturing conferences, delivering keynote speeches or simply attending in-person and virtual events.

Don’t limit yourself there, though. Make sure you have women within your firm contributing posts to your blog and encourage them to publish on platforms like LinkedIn. These don’t have to be employees on the front-lines within manufacturing, either. In fact, it could be helpful to remind the world of the many career opportunities within manufacturing sales, marketing, customer service and IT department roles.

Bring Women Together With Leadership, And Actively Listen

There are still a lot of outdated attitudes and behaviours that can make it difficult for women to bring their best selves to work. Diversifying the workforce is not simply a project but an ongoing conversation that should be happening at all levels.

Organize town hall-type sessions with women on your team and senior leaders, for example. Aim to deepen understanding about the issues that may be making recruiting more women difficult, such as childcare responsibilities and having to do a greater share of the housework. This should be the foundation for reassessing how your company runs. It could be the catalyst for introducing more flexible work options, for example, or meaningful changes to your employee benefits program.

Give Women A Clear Career Path

A job’s a job, but a true career is based on a lifetime of learning and taking on new challenges. Offer women resources and tools that give them the ability to develop their talent, particularly their digital skill set. Create employee plans that map out performance milestones and potential opportunities once they’ve been reached.

Canadian manufacturing will look a lot different once more women are a part of it – and the result will be better for everyone involved.

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