Attracting the Other Half
The solution to the problem of finding shop floor talent might very well lie in efforts to attract not just young people to manufacturing, but a specific group of young people: girls. After all, census data show that more than half the population of the United States is female, and although times are changing, there’s evidence that traditional gender roles and long-standing biases continue to discourage that half from pursuing STEM careers (more on that below).
I’m certainly not alone in that opinion. If you missed it, the advertisement above went viral two weeks ago, and it’s well-worth a look. For one, it’s a hoot—quite a clever (and amusing) take on the subject, in my view. Beyond that, it’s interesting and refreshing to see a company with the stated goal of “disrupting the pink aisle” by opening doors that are often closed to girls from a very early age. (Unfortunately, a dispute over the original music—which I thought complemented the ad quite nicely—has since overshadowed the message somewhat. Regardless, I know what I’ll be getting a few of my little cousins for Christmas).
At least one school has gotten the message. My colleagues at our sister publication Modern Machine Shop recently reported on a Wisconsin high school that recently launched the state’s first all-female engineering class. Meanwhile, attendance at the annual summit hosted by Women in Manufacturing, a subgroup of the Precision Metalforming Association, continues to grow in size and scope. Even the White House has gotten in on the action.
I’m sure there are plenty of other efforts like these—more than I could hope to cover here. Suffice to say they’re very much needed, as the barriers girls face are quite real. As for the aforementioned evidence of that, check out this interesting take on the issue, which appeared in Forbes a few months back. Among other studies and statistics, the article notes that a study from Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute attributes part of the reason for the lack of women in manufacturing to the perception of a male-favored culture.