A new report by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute concludes that women "represent manufacturing's largest pool of untapped talent."
The question, then, is how can manufacturers attract top female talent?
Not surprisingly, it begins with commitment from senior management.
"A cultural change begins in the C-suite," Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute assert in the report, titled "Untapped Resource: How Manufacturers Can Attract, Retain and Advance Talented Women."
"For diversity and inclusion initiatives and programs to gain traction throughout an organization, senior leaders must be aligned on [diversity and inclusion] as a business priority and must visibly lead by example."
Executives' incentives and rewards should be linked to their progress toward meeting diversity and inclusion goals, the report adds.
Some companies enlist the help of outside councils to advise senior leaders and hold them accountable for progress toward meeting such goals.
Other strategies outlined in the report:
- Address gender bias with awareness training. While gender discrimination is less of an issue these days, a number of studies have indicated that gender bias still exists.
"Leading organizations, across industries, are addressing these unconscious biases through targeted awareness training that are designed to build executive awareness of their own biases so that they can consciously adjust their behaviors and decision-making processes," the report says. "These trainings uncover the drivers of each individual's thought process, highlights how unconscious biases impact key decisions, and provides strategies to create a more inclusive workplace."
- Create a more flexible work environment. "Manufacturers who effectively rethink when and where work gets done will have a competitive edge in the talent war," the report asserts.
The report advises manufacturers to consider "shifting from a 'presence-driven' culture to a 'results-driven' culture."
"Many leading companies recognize and reward individuals and teams who drive results, regardless of when and where work is being done."
- Foster sponsorship. In a survey of more than 600 women in manufacturing, Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute found that women believe that "sponsorship is an effective tactic to support women's advancement into leadership positions."
"A sponsor advocates for an individual and undertakes responsibility for that person's development and professional progression," the report explains.
Women in sponsorship relationships are 30 percent more likely to receive stretch assignments, promotions and pay raises, according to the report.
- Promote personal development. "Manufacturers that offer customized learning and development may have an advantage in the retention and advancement of women," the report says.
Manufacturers can support the technical and leadership development of women in a number of ways, including providing a clear of understanding of what's required in various roles and positions; assessing "high-potential talent" or encouraging such individuals to conduct self-assessments; and helping talent "build out an experiential-based development plan."
- Build a strong employer brand. "An overwhelming majority of survey respondents believe that manufacturers can improve their efforts to recruit women," the report says.
Strategies include recruiting at schools that have large numbers of women STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] graduates; keeping female leaders "visibly engaged" in recruiting efforts; and building relationships with high-school and college teachers and advisors to keep them informed about career opportunities and talent needs in manufacturing.
'Compelling Business Case'
There's a "compelling business case" for bringing more women into the manufacturing fold, according to Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute.
Not only are women "critical to addressing the skills gap in manufacturing," but women also are "consumers and influencers" whose "experiences and insights could contribute significantly to the industry's competitiveness."
"Finally, research indicates that organizations with diverse leadership are more profitable," the report explains. "A study by Catalyst, a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding opportunities for women and business, found that Fortune 500 companies with high percentages of women officers had a 35 percent higher return on equity and a 34 percent higher total return than companies with fewer women executives."