Since World War II, women have played a key role in manufacturing. Women today are developing new technologies, building bridges, shaping infrastructure, creating products and running companies. But in an industry where the skills gap is expected to grow by an estimated two million jobs by 2020, women are absolutely essential to our future success.

Evidence abounds

There is a clear correlation between companies with more women in top-level positions and stronger financial performance, according to various studies ranging from Catalyst to the Center for Creative Leadership to Mercer Consulting.

Companies that want to remain competitive not only need to make it a priority to recruit women into their workforce, but also must have a well thought-out gender diversity strategy to attract, develop and retain talent.

"In an industry where the skills gap is expected to grow by an estimated two million jobs by 2020, women are absolutely essential to our future success."

Call to action

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to spend two days with 130 women leaders from across the U.S. who had been recognized for their accomplishments in manufacturing. Their stories ranged from being a single mom who started on the shop floor and now leads a team of 75 people, to young entrepreneur running a multimillion-dollar company.

The highlight was seeing all these powerful women on stage, standing before 600+ attendees, yelling in unison, “we are manufacturing.” If our industry can harness this energy and talent, which sometimes goes untapped, we can drive innovation and uncover new opportunities to grow our businesses and economy.

So can #MFGWomen transform the industry? Absolutely. These women are the future engineers designing the next big products, the future machinists testing innovations on the shop floor, or the future CEOs running the company. Women are the future of manufacturing, and initiatives like STEP Ahead are the catalyst for transformation.