Manufacturing executives recommend strategies for closing the gender gap

June 9, 2014

While the U.S. manufacturing industry is experiencing an economic resurgence, the industry's ongoing skills gap is affecting 80 percent of employers and is exacerbated by the underrepresentation of women, according to a new report from Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute.

Challenges and opportunities to integrate more women into the manufacturing workforce are illustrated in the study "Celebrating success, achievement and potential of women in manufacturing: A leadership view of overcoming the talent crisis and filling the skills gap." Building upon the women in manufacturing research previously published by The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, senior executives representing automotive, aerospace and defense, process, and diversified manufacturing participated in an executive roundtable Feb. 6, 2014. They discussed women in the manufacturing industry and initiatives to help close the gender gap, including how manufacturers can best attract, retain, and advance talented women in the industry.

During the roundtable, executives focused on the C-suite's role in changing the corporate culture in the industry and what manufacturers can do to create a strong employer brand.

"The skills shortage facing U.S. manufacturers is apparent, and the underrepresentation of women only contributes to the gap," said Jennifer McNelly, president of The Manufacturing Institute. "We must empower each other as ambassadors of the industry so we can inspire the next generation of young women to pursue manufacturing careers and encourage current female talent within the industry."

In 2012 The Manufacturing Institute launched the STEP (science, technology, engineering, and production) Initiative to change perceptions of the manufacturing industry and create new opportunities for women in the sector. This report was created as part of the larger STEP Ahead Initiative led by the institute.

Manufacturing executives suggested several strategies to help close the gender gap, including

  • Integrate women into the corporate strategy to lead a strategic cultural change while ensuring men are equally involved and committed to the efforts.
  • Share leading practices and be proactive in providing resources to inform, educate, and mentor.
  • Use affinity groups to generate ideas, motivate peers, and give and receive guidance.
  • Engage The Manufacturing Institute's STEP Ahead Initiative to engage honorees as leaders and ambassadors.

For more information and to view the full report, visit or