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Focus on the Workforce: WiM: Keeping the Momentum Going

Allison Grealis









By Allison Grealis
Precision Metalforming Association (PMA)
Women in Manufacturing

Nearly 12-million people work in the manufacturing sector in the United States. The current estimate of unfilled skilled labor positions in manufacturing is 600,000. We need to fill these positions to have a competitive manufacturing sector in the US. While women make up 47% of the total labor force, they make up only 25% of the manufacturing labor force (Deloitte 2013).

An obvious answer to the labor shortage is to count on the entire population of women and men to fill the available jobs. The people with the right skills or the ability to attain these skills are out there. We need to educate people, male and female, interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), that manufacturing is a viable STEM career path, and a good one.

Much is being done to inspire and support those working in manufacturing, specifically women, and to attract new blood to the field. Key among that effort is publicizing the attractive career path that awaits those with a solid STEM education, which underlies most manufacturing disciplines. We can show how women can move from gainful, entry-level employment in manufacturing to leadership roles and the executive office. Armed with the knowledge and possibility of career advancement in manufacturing, women can be the answer manufacturing has been looking for to fill the 600,000 jobs gap. A few noteworthy events that support this effort are coming up.

Women celebrate at the February 2013 STEP Awards in Washington, DC. Photo courtesy Dave Bohrer

The Women in Manufacturing SUMMIT 2013 will be held October 22–23, 2013 at The Henry in Dearborn, Michigan. Women in Manufacturing (WiM) began in November 2009 with a small group of Precision Metalforming Association (PMA) members who gathered at the FABTECH tradeshow in Chicago to discuss best practices, business conditions and unique challenges and needs as minorities in the field. This intimate group subsequently met in 2010 and 2011 before broadening its scope to network with women in all areas and industries within manufacturing.

The group arrived at the concept of a women in manufacturing meeting and launched the Women in Manufacturing SUMMIT 2011, where 130 women gathered in Cleveland, OH, on October 25–26, 2011. The Women in Manufacturing SUMMIT 2012, held October 29–30 in Milwaukee, WI, grew to attract 200 female manufacturing leaders. Approximately 300 participants are expected to attend SUMMIT 2013, October 22–23 in Dearborn, MI.

As a result of this success, the group has broadened its offerings to include additional year-round networking opportunities, mentoring programs, quarterly e-newsletters and an online directory, all aimed at supporting the WiM mission—to encourage the engagement of women who have chosen a career in the manufacturing industry and want to share perspectives, gain cutting-edge manufacturing information, improve leadership and communication skills, participate in mentoring programs and network with industry peers.

WiM focuses on attracting, retaining and advancing women in the manufacturing sector. It is a sister organization of PMA, the full-service trade association representing the $113-billion metalforming industry of North America. Registration for this year’s SUMMIT is now open. Please visit for more information.

About 200 women gathered for the 2012 WiM Summit in Milwaukee, WI, earlier this year. Approximately 300 participants are expected to attend SUMMIT 2013, October 22–23 in Dearborn, MI.

Women in Manufacturing will be celebrated at FABTECH held November 18–21, 2013 in Chicago, IL at McCormick Place. This will unfold as a series of events including a Thought Leaders Round Table Discussion, a guided Tech Tour, and a Women in Manufacturing Reception. Leaders in Manufacturing will discuss experiences in manufacturing now and when they first started in the industry, as well as how to engage the future leaders at the Thought Leaders Round Table Discussion. Subject matter experts will take Women in Manufacturing Alliance partners on a guided tour of the FABTECH show floor to connect them with current trends, technologies, and needs in manufacturing. The day will conclude with a Networking Reception addressing the current and upcoming workforce needs facing manufacturing.

Separately, the Manufacturing Institute is partnering with Deloitte, University of Phoenix, and SME on the STEP Ahead Initiative (women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Production). The STEP Ahead Awards will be given in February 2014 in Washington, DC. This is part of the larger STEP Ahead Initiative, launched in 2012 to examine and promote the role of women in manufacturing through recognition, research, and education/leadership. It will also highlight best practices for attracting, advancing and retaining strong female talent.

In February of 2013, 122 women were chosen to be honored at the inaugural STEP Ahead Awards because they each made significant achievements in manufacturing through positive impact on their company and the industry as a whole. 

Partnerships and events like these can help make our industry stronger. It’s time we all think about how we can be involved in manufacturing’s future. ME


This article was first published in the October 2013 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.  Click here for PDF

Published Date : 10/1/2013

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