Women's Leadership Network
Packaging & Processing Women's Leadership Network

The Critical Role of Women in Manufacturing

COVID-19 and the impact on women in the manufacturing workforce.

The events of 2020 have turned workplaces upside down – and women, in particular, have been negatively impacted. As a result of these dynamics, more than one in four women are contemplating what many would have considered unthinkable just six months ago: downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce completely, according to the Women in the Workplace 2020 study published by McKinsey & Company.

What does this mean for manufacturing?

As highlighted by The Manufacturing Institute’s STEP Ahead Award winners, women have had a tremendous impact in helping manufacturers make gains in every facet of manufacturing, from sustainability to implementing cross-functional teams. Women have been instrumental in developing cost-saving technologies, leading the way on the adoption of Industry 4.0, mentoring young talent, implementing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policies, to name just a few.

These contributions come despite the number of women in manufacturing continuing to lag behind men. In manufacturing, DEI is often focused on women because the industry has historically been male-dominated. Fewer than one in three manufacturing professionals are women today, despite representing nearly half of the overall workforce in the United States, according to the 2021 Manufacturing Talent study from Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute (MI).

In addition, a separate DEI study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute notes that women are underrepresented in manufacturing and are 1.8 times more likely to leave the industry than men, in part due to circumstances of the pandemic. Still it could also be about how work is organized in manufacturing – noting that the lack of work-life balance and flexible work arrangements have been a top reason that many women give for leaving the industry.

The rising number of women decision-makers attending PACK EXPO trade shows underscores the growing importance of women in the packaging and processing workforce. In 2017, over 6,100 women registered to attend PACK EXPO Las Vegas – and over 500 participated in the Packaging and Processing Women’s Network (PPWLN) Breakfast that year. In 2019, the number of women attendees grew to over 7,300, with more than 700 in attendance at the women’s breakfast.

To this end, the possibility of losing so many senior-level women is alarming. The financial consequences could be significant, the McKinsey study points out. Research shows that companies with women well represented at top positions are 50 percent more likely to outperform their peers.

Read the original article.