Careers in Manufacturing

A Woman’s Place is in…Manufacturing

July 25, 2013

WomanMachinistOne of the ongoing concerns of CNC machine shops is the difficulty in finding qualified machine operators, programmers and other skilled workers. Some of the proposed cures for this malady are better education about manufacturing in our public schools, better access to technical education at community colleges, and a return to apprenticeship programs. There is even talk of creating an industry-wide advertising and public relations campaign to enhance the image of manufacturing as a career option.

While all of these approaches make sense and should be pursued, it must be acknowledged that there should also be a greater emphasis on expanding the role of women in what has long been a male-dominated field. There are, to be sure, a number of successful women already playing key roles in manufacturing companies but more are needed.

Sandy Keplinger, Vice President of Staub Manufacturing Solutions (Dayton, Ohio) is one such successful woman in manufacturing. Sandy is part of a monthly Women In Manufacturing Roundtable that meets at Gosiger, Inc. Here are some of her thoughts on the subject:

"Well, the one’s I know are talented, creative and disciplined who either on purpose, or by accident, ended up in this male-dominated field. We like our careers because manufacturing is interesting, challenging and rewarding. It pays well and offers us flexibility and balance between work and life."

"Yes, we like manufacturing, but manufacturing likes us too. For the most part, women are wired differently, therefore we tend to look at things and view situations from a different angle or perspective. When you have a male/female mix offering insight and options, you create a new dynamic thereby putting the company into a better financial position."

"But most of all we understand that a career in manufacturing is important and is a real opportunity to make a difference in this world by making something that matters and helping improve the quality of life."

"At our last Roundtable, we discussed “How did we get into manufacturing?” All-in-all the answers were pretty much the same; “We had parents who encouraged us.” They didn’t limit us by gender but instead nurtured our natural inquisitiveness. They showed us manufacturing facilities that are bright and clean, and some that have more computers on the floor than machines. But most of all they showed us manufacturing isn't just for guys or for “someone else.” Instead they showed us that it is a viable, fun career for women.”

"A recent study shows that only 5-15% of students in today’s engineering programs are females. But in actuality, it is closer to 5% as most women in the STEM programs (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) are in the medical and science fields. So how can we help? There are several ways, but first we need to create company environments that encourage and enhance the development of women in manufacturing. We can then get involved by having females from leadership roles within our companies host visits for local schools. It is imperative we get the word out that manufacturing isn’t just dirty menial labor or technical mumbo jumbo but rather a worthwhile career using a combination of skills including being creative and innovative."

"Let’s spread the word by helping lead summer camps, allowing kids to get their hands dirty (if they want) and to create something! Let’s build relationships with teachers and students (future coworkers) by igniting their imaginations like our parents did ours. Let’s ask the questions of the future: What will we need? How will it be made? Who will design it and who will make it? These are all fascinating questions that need answers!"

"Luckily there are some Schools that have STEM programs already in place that help nurture and mentor students into this captivating world of manufacturing! Girl Scouts of America has also launched a campaign to expose Scouts to activities in STEM. There are so many positives to a career in manufacturing; we just need to let our young people know about them."

"These programs are a good start to helping an industry that badly needs skilled employees. And yes, there are plenty of good jobs available in the field of manufacturing. But finding qualified people to fill them is still a challenge. Since women represent about half of the workforce, we can be - at least partially - an answer to this shortage. It is imperative, though, that we act now to attract, retain and advance women in manufacturing.”