Manufacturing opens more doors for women

The following is a cross-post from the US Census Bureau

The US manufacturing industry saw a substantial decline in employment from 2000 to 2010 largely due to the Great Recession of 2008, but rebounded – until the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020. Despite these fluctuations, it started to increase again in 2021.

But the recovery does not mean a return to traditional manual jobs. Instead, manufacturing employers now need a new kind of worker, equipped with the skills to operate in a highly automated environment.

The shift could open doors for more women, according to manufacturing industry data and trends the Census Bureau is highlighting as the country celebrates Manufacturing Day (October 7).

Some facts about women in manufacturing:

  • They made up about 47% of the American workforce, but only 30% worked in manufacturing.
  • One in four management positions were held by women.
  • They earned on average 16% more than the national median annual income of working women.

Although men still hold the majority (67.9%) of manufacturing jobs in the United States, the Census Bureau’s Job-to-Job (J2J) Flow Explorer shows that from 2010 until the pandemic hit in 2020, the share of women in manufacturing jobs has increased in all sectors of activity. -age category until 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

In 2021, the data shows that the numbers are going back to pre-Covid levels. Some age groups show an even higher peak than before the pandemic. For example, 8.6% of people who worked in manufacturing were women between the ages of 55 and 64 before the pandemic, but this figure has risen to 9.1% in 2021.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the number of manufacturing jobs in the United States fell from over 17 million in 2000 to just over 12 million in 2015. As shown below, this trend can be seen using the quarterly publication of the US Census Bureau. Workforce Indicator Exploration Tool (QWI).

Among the reasons for the decline in manufacturing jobs: the competitive challenge of global markets, as well as highly productive industries, such as communications, finance and business, are also attracting more workers.

In addition, a major demographic shift – the “great retirement” of baby boomers leaving the workforce – also played a role.

Increased diversity

As manufacturers strive to foster creativity, they’ve found that gender diversity boosts employee morale and retention. As a result, there has also been some growth in the number of women not only in manufacturing, but also in fields related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) – skills whose manufacturing employers increasingly need.

Manufacturing jobs are no longer the hazardous and dangerous jobs they used to be. Many are now high-tech, from design and marketing to administration, finance and sales, and cybersecurity.

Manufacturing was once one of the industries that paid well without a college degree and provided many Americans with a middle-class lifestyle. According to a 2017 report from Georgetown University, most entry-level manufacturing positions paid higher salaries, $35,000 per year, compared to $26,000 for some jobs.

When automated production functions began to change, it mostly affected people with a high school diploma or less education. As production and assembly jobs lost ground to jobs outside the factory, those with a post-secondary education became best positioned to succeed in the new world of manufacturing.

Recruit women

Some of the ways the industry has attracted more women and narrowed the gender gap include encouraging girls at a young age to study STEM subjects and changing the perception of women in manufacturing. For example, some universities offer college credit to middle and high school girls in manufacturing programs.

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