We know that the underrepresentation of women in industry contributes in part to this gap. While women make up about 47 percent of the labor force in the United States, they are still woefully underrepresented at only 27 percent of the manufacturing workforce. We have an opportunity to close the skills gap by tapping into a major talent source: women.

Updating public perception

In order to attract women to manufacturing and retain them, the manufacturing industry must overcome its perception issue, and we are here to debunk it. Companies have trouble recruiting women into manufacturing because many think the jobs require tough manual labor, or that the work is repetitive and mind-numbingly boring.

These prevailing myths mask the truth: that today’s manufacturing jobs are highly technical, well-paying and offer many career options with bright futures. Manufacturers need to showcase the opportunities that their companies can hold for women.

Long before either of us embarked on our professional careers, the United States experienced a manufacturing expansion that positioned the industry as the backbone of the United States. And now, as employees of two major global manufacturers, we are proud to see firsthand the difference that makers make.

Why I chose manufacturing

I have always been fascinated by how things work and I intentionally sought a career in manufacturing. It has afforded me the opportunity for career advancement and a truly global experience. Who gets to support work in the Middle East, in the Amazon and on nearly every continent in the world? I did.

As a Human Resources professional working in one of the fasting growing industries in the United States, I have had the opportunity to promote inclusion and diversity and help to dispel the myth of manufacturing as a “dirty job.” In fact, some of the newest and most innovative manufacturing methods involve additive manufacturing and robotics, to name just two. That’s hardly the picture of an aging, dreary factory. These require specific skills that we are targeting to hire on campuses and promote in workforce training. I highly recommend a career in the manufacturing industry as a rewarding, challenging and interesting opportunity to pursue.

A bridge to diversity

At both of our professional organizations, we look to recruit, retain and advance women through strong connections with colleges and universities, mentorship, networks and leadership development.

We are committed to initiating those unfamiliar with manufacturing into the different types of roles available to them with the right training and education (from design, to tech, to management), the earning power and the portability of skills to so many aspects of a manufacturing career. To close the skills gap, manufacturers must work to alter the industry image and communicate the quality opportunities available to women. Together, we can make a difference.