March 20, 2018

STEM (which is stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) is becoming a buzzword nowadays. But what about STEP? As part of an initiative to promote women in manufacturing, The Manufacturing Institute launched the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Production (STEP) Ahead Initiative in 2012 to showcase notable women in the industry.

However, despite these efforts, women continue to be underrepresented in this workforce. Today, women only constitute 29 percent of the manufacturing workforce in the U.S., and only 28 percent in Canada.  

You Can Do It

The challenge of perception

Let’s face it, many people don’t see manufacturing work as attractive or well-regarded. People typically associate these roles as traditional blue-collar work, where employees are low skilled, underpaid, and work in poor and dangerous conditions.

On top of this, manufacturing jobs are often portrayed as very masculine: which involves a lot of brawn, heavy-lifting, and hands-on mechanical skills. However, this is no longer the case.

Allison Grealis, director of Women in Manufacturing said in the Daily Worth article that “today’s manufacturing isn’t dark, dirty or dangerous,” but is “much more about brains than brawn.” But for some reason, most people don’t see it this way. In fact, 80 percent of women in manufacturing believe the industry doesn’t do a good job of promoting itself to potential female employees.

In fact, job titles such as PLC technician and automation technician, involve highly technical skill sets in order to operate and maintain today’s advanced machinery and robotics—making it more difficult for employers to find skilled workers.

Rather than working in grimy areas among sweaty men, many of today’s modern manufacturers work in modern environments with the latest technologies. (Image below: a woman working at a Tesla automobile manufacturing plant in Fremont, California.)

Woman working at a Tesla automobile manufacturing

What’s in it for women?

Women can reap many benefits from working in the manufacturing industry. For starters, the compensation is very high. In fact, in a survey asking women in the manufacturing industry what was the most attractive aspect of their career, 37 percent found compensation to be the most attractive.

For instance, according to PayScale, mechanical technicians in Canada earn between C$31,405–C$77,852, whereas a PLC programmer can earn as much as C$89,527 with a median salary of C$65,000.

Asides from the good compensation, many women find their manufacturing career fulfilling. The Manufacturing Institute reported that over 75 percent of women surveyed agreed that a manufacturing career is interesting and rewarding.

Several women interviewed by the Daily Worth describes how they enjoy the challenges of working in manufacturing, where they use problem-solving skills on a  regular basis. As well, many are proud of their positive impact on society, where they manufacture products such as cars that will drive children to school and solar panels to power eco-friendly homes.

What’s in it for manufacturers?

According to a Deloitte study, gender diversity benefits a manufacturing organization through improved ability to innovate, higher return on equity, and increased profitability. You can see this in corporations in which an increase from no females in corporate leadership to 30 percent representation is associated with a 15 percent increase in net profitability.

Having a women on the leadership team can help manufacturers deliver:

  • 88 percent diverse perspectives in decision making

  • 84 percent innovative and creative approaches and solutions

  • 74 percent balanced organizational management

  • 49 percent improved financial performance

By having a more diversity in the workforce, organizations can see improvements in performance and innovation.

Encouraging women in STEP

The Manufacturing Institute STEP Ahead initiative, has seen positive results from their effort to bolster manufacturing’s attractiveness to women. In fact STEP Ahead awardees (who are also ambassadors) indicated that the recognition programs has helped raised visibility of:

  • 75 percent opportunities for women in the industry

  • 70 percent manufacturing opportunities in the community

  • 69 opportunities for women within their companies

Through showcasing female role models in manufacturing, more women see the appeal of developing professionally in this industry.   

STEPping up

Through various online technical training, such as GBC’s  industrial automation training and PLC technician training, students can gain the experiences and skills they need to start a thriving career in manufacturing. At George Brown College, these programs can be done at home on your own schedule, perfect for people with busy schedules. Learn more about our PLC technician programs today.

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