WomenFix Guest Blogger: How Men Get Women Into Manufacturing


By: Lindsey Frick

A group of manufacturing professionals agreed: It should be the best person for the job. But when only 24% of the manufacturing workforce is women, now’s the time for men (and women) to focus on solutions to boost that percentage.

At the 2015 Women in Manufacturing Summit I had the opportunity to facilitate a roundtable to discuss an interesting topic. The topic for the table was “The Role of Men.” Similar to the #HeForShe campaign by the United Nations, The Role of Men topic flipped the discussion to determine what men can do to usher women into manufacturing.

Two groups of female and male participants came up with some clear cut issues, culprits, and possible solutions. Here’s a list of the top 4 areas where men (and women) can help.

1. Understand recognition differences.

Many times women seek recognition that is different than the kind that men seek (or that men give). For instance, only 48% of women feel appreciated at work. Meanwhile, 79% of men feel appreciated at work. These findings were published in the book Work with Me: The 8 Blind Spots Between Men and Women in Business by Barbara Annis and John Gray (John Gray also wrote Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus).

They also found that 89% of men want to be recognized for just their results. But, 82% of women want to be recognized for their effort in achieving the results. An example of effort includes taking into consideration the sacrifices made to get to the result. (more explanation on recognition differences on page number 5)

Solution: Women should ask for the type of recognition they need, or get it from peers in groups like Women in Manufacturing. They shouldn’t expect to get it from men in their field. If they expect it and don’t get it, they might feel unworthy and unqualified. However, men should recognize the differences in recognition and make note of how to include women’s needs into their style of leadership and incentive programs.

2. Read female resumes differently or ask for specific edits.

As mentioned above, women usually see more value in the journey than the results. They also tend to promote other people and teams rather than themselves. Because of these tendencies, resumes from females may not include quantitative, cold-hard numbers on financial success they’ve brought to the table and will not focus on their personal wins.

Solution: Don’t throw the resume away. If you see a resume like this, ask the woman for the numbers and give her examples of what you are looking for. Maybe you’re looking for number of people they managed, savings, profits, or number of new connections they brought to the table. Remember that women think creatively, so the monetary gains they achieved for their last employer may be hidden in complex, interconnected areas.

Solution: Ask different interview questions and describe the job opportunity differently. Are your interview questions or job postings written in a way to attract, or discourage, women? One example brought up at the table was a specific interview question. Instead of asking ‘Do you tinker with your car?’ replace the question with ‘What do you like to create?’

3. Take a good look at leadership and pipeline.

Are your boards and leaders mostly male? Are you tracking the ratio of women who apply and who actually get hired? And, what’s the ratio of female to male applications?

Solution: Employee-hired. One woman mentioned her company does not hire specifically from one HR manager or one person in leadership. Rather, the company has other employees rate the applicant and that ensures the best person for the job gets hired.

Solution: Bring in a naysayer. It’s always helpful to have one naysayer in a group-led decision. Next time everyone is saying yes or no to an application or a board decision, bring in someone who will make everyone think differently.

Solution: Male AND female mentors. One man mentioned that having male and female mentors is the best solution for seeing positive progress of a mentoree’s career. But, most mentoree’s don’t know that they should have more than one mentor or that they be of different genders. A possible solution is to ask women if they would like you to help them find mentors. Then get the male and female mentors for them (could include yourself), but make sure the mentors communicate with one another because that creates a good check and balance towards progress.

4. Does your work life mimic your home life?

Family life has more to do with women in manufacturing than you might think.

Solution: Raise your daughters as fixers. Manufacturing is about creative problem solving from the design of the product to the logistics of supply chain. The more you show your daughter (or female family member or friend) the problems that manufacturing tackles, the more you will see their ability to come up with smart solutions and empower them to feel comfortable with the industry.
One person at the table said they have a male co-worker that wasn’t sure about working with women until his daughter started getting into robotics through Dean Kamen’s FIRST program. His mind instantly changed.

Solution: Offer a hand at home or get additional help. In the book Womenomics by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, it states that 78% of couples in this country are dual-income earners. Yet, in the book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg she finds in a 2007 study of well-educated professional women who had left the paid workforce that 60% of the women said husbands were a factor in their decision to leave. This was because there was not enough household support.

To help women stay in the workforce and advance into leadership positions, men may have to lessen their work hours, ask for a more flexible schedule, or come up with some other solution to be more helpful to their partners.

Asking for less hours or flexible hours at your job can be difficult, but it’s important to remember that a lot of people want flexible hours. As stated in Womenomics, 63% of surveyed men and women believe they don’t have enough time for their spouses or partners, 74% say they don’t have enough time for their children, and 35% of adults are putting significant time toward caring for an elder relative. These stresses result in half of the surveyed participants wanting fewer hours, more than half would trade money for a day off, and three-quarters would negotiate for more flexible work options.

Lindsey Frick

Lindsey Frick, Social Engineer @BigIdeaEngineer and Lead Fixer @WOMENFIX