Manufacturers need to change their approaches if they hope to reduce the gender gap in their industry, according to a recent analysis.
The "Women in Manufacturing" report from Deloitte, the Manufacturing Institute and APICS noted that women account for just 29 percent of the manufacturing workforce compared to 47 percent in the overall U.S. labor force.
Improving gender diversity in manufacturing companies, analysts wrote, leads to better innovation climates, returns on equity and, ultimately, profitability.
Incorporating more women into the manufacturing workforce, the report added, could also help alleviate a shortage of skilled workers that's expected to hit more than 2 million in the next decade.
The groups surveyed more than 600 women employed in manufacturing and conducted interviews with nearly 20 manufacturing executives.
The report said that company leadership must send clear messages that manufacturing gender gaps need to be closed.
Company officials should also put women in positions to serve as role models and ensure that younger female workers are engaged in the company. Seventy-two percent of women in the survey believed they were underrepresented in company leadership.
"When women are among leaders in organizations, there is a wider lens of strategic thinking," one executive told report authors.
And although compensation and benefits are important to all workers, the analysis encouraged companies to be cognizant of priorities for women. The survey found that older generations of women workers sought opportunities for challenging assignments, while younger workers valued work-life balance in greater numbers.
The report also warned that many women continued to hold outdated perceptions about manufacturing, although participants reported more encouragement of girls to pursue manufacturing jobs both at school and at home.
The poll also showed additional promising signs, including 70 percent of women who would stay in manufacturing if starting their careers over again and 42 percent that believed that disparities in pay between genders are narrowing.
In other areas, however, more work needs to be done. Seventy-one percent of women surveyed believed that standards were different for men and women in their companies — and of those, 87 percent believed that standards are more difficult for women.