Challenges Facing Women in Manufacturing
Women make up 50% of the labor force in the US. In contrast, only 24% of the manufacturing labor force is female, according to figures produced by the Manufacturing Institute. Companies continue to struggle to attract female applicants for manufacturing roles. As a result, fewer women progress through the hierarchy to gain the experience necessary to become owners or CEOs of manufacturing businesses. We look at the specific challenges facing women in manufacturing.
Difficulty Securing Finance
Small manufacturing businesses need a large amount of working capital to operate successfully. Often a substantial amount of cash is tied up in raw materials and inventory, no matter how efficiently a company is run. Successfully increasing sales can lead to increased pressure on cash flow. This financial pressure means that manufacturing businesses must have solid lines of credit in place if they are to grow and develop.
Women business owners can find it more difficult than their counterparts to secure commercial finance. A report by the Senate Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee in 2014 found that women business owners secured only 16% of conventional small-business loans and 7% of venture-capital funding, despite owning 30% of small businesses.
Problems Securing Government Contracts
To be successful, manufacturing businesses need to win long-term contracts that boost their financial stability. Securing an opportunity to bid for new business can be challenging for women in manufacturing, who may not have access to established networks.
To address this issue, organizations such as the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), help small businesses owned and run by women to network and support one another. Such organizations help women-owned businesses to open up new sources of revenue and develop effective partnerships. They provide lists of diversity and procurement executives to whom approaches can be made to secure new business. They also support the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program, which assists women-owned businesses to secure government contracts.
Argent Tape and Label recently attended and exhibited at the WBENC (Women-owned) National Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. The show was a huge success for Argent Tape and Label as we were able to network and connect with current customers and prospects alike. The show isn’t just for networking though, there are also many workshops that attendees can take part of to learn more about business, leading, and how to use your WBE certification to help your company create new business.
The owner of Argent Tape and Label is on the WBENC Great Lakes team and is an integral part of bringing the National Conference to Detroit next year.
Manufacturing Jobs are “Not for Girls”
One of the biggest challenges facing companies who want to recruit more women into manufacturing is the perception that manufacturing jobs are “not for girls.” When Women in Manufacturing carried out a study of women’s career aspirations in 2014, less than 10% of the respondents identified manufacturing as one of their top five career choices. This contrasts with the 64% of women already working in manufacturing who would recommend manufacturing as a career for young women. Of the women already working in manufacturing, 80% reported that their work is interesting and challenging, while 74% believe that the sector offers multiple career paths for women.
Unless companies can attract more female employees into manufacturing, there will always be fewer women with the necessary skills and experience competing to progress into top jobs in the sector, including ownership of small manufacturing businesses. This gender imbalance makes it likely that manufacturing will remain a male-dominated field until this perception is changed.
Initiatives like the Manufacturing Institute’s mentorship program, which aims to encourage young women to pursue careers in manufacturing, may begin to address this issue.