New Episode of the Minds on Manufacturing Podcast Discusses the Growing Need for Gender Diversity

The latest episode of the Minds on Manufacturing podcast focuses on the benefits of getting more women into manufacturing jobs, which would spur innovation and growth for individual businesses, the manufacturing industry, and the U.S. economy.

Manufacturing executives rank talent as the top driver of manufacturing competitiveness, yet women are a huge pool of untapped talent. Women make up about 47 percent of the overall U.S. workforce, but only 29 percent of the manufacturing workforce, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

That gap has had serious implications as the manufacturing industry faces a continued shortage of skilled workers.

Titled The Diversity Dividend, the new episode features interviews with:

• Lindsey Lawton, a Minnesota college student pursuing a career in welding
• Allison Grealis, president of Women in Manufacturing, the only national trade association for women in the industry
• Joy Abbitt, territory manager for a machinery dealer who has excelled in male-dominated fields her entire career, including as an avionics technician on F-18 Super Hornets in the U.S. Navy

Grealis said research has consistently shown that manufacturing companies with more diverse workforces and leadership groups are more innovative and competitive. “Diverse companies are just more profitable,” Grealis said. “They have higher revenue and are better at capturing new markets. But it’s not just that, these companies are setting themselves up to be leaders far into the future. That’s because research also shows that young people, job seekers of today and tomorrow, are looking for a diverse workforce.”
According to Glassdoor, 76 percent of job seekers and employees say that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers.

Lawton said exposing all high school students to typically male-dominated jobs is key to attracting young women into fields like welding.
“I made my very first spark the first semester of my freshman year of high school,” she said. “My high school has a well-developed welding program. My older brother took it and told me to try it. I didn’t really even know these jobs were possible.”
Abbitt, who is now the Florida territory manager for BluTec Machinery, said her mechanical aptitude opened up the opportunity to work as an avionics technician on Navy fighter jets on the U.S.S. Carl Vinson.

While working in a male-dominated industry can be intimidating, being knowledgeable and confident goes a long way, she said.

“I do think it can be intimidating to go into certain typical male professions,” she said. “It can be challenging and difficult but one of the most rewarding things is succeeding in that environment.”