Women Investing in Manufacturing

According to a 2013 article in Forbes magazine, women represent nearly half of the total U.S. labor force, yet they only constitute approximately a quarter of the U.S. manufacturing workforce.

Manufacturing leaders from the Tool, Die & Machining Association of Wisconsin (TDMAW) are hoping to change that. TDMAW have formed a new group called empoWer: Women Investing in Manufacturing as a means to encourage and support manufacturing careers. Its board of directors includes representatives from PNC Bank, Busch Precision, Strategic Marketing Partners and Sikich LLC.

One motivating force for organizing this effort is today’s skills gap. There is a looming shortage of manufacturing technicians and tradespeople, and women make up a talented pool of potential skilled workers. Girls and women don’t always realize what opportunities are available to them and may have an outdated impression of manufacturing. This group’s goal is to show students and other prospective workers that a technical education offers a good career path.

From the start, empoWer has been determined to be more than just another networking group. The organization intends to add value for both the manufacturing industry and prospective employees. In early meetings, empoWer members defined the group’s mission as inspiring women to pursue manufacturing careers and enabling the innovative, creative and sustainable leadership that manufacturing needs in the future. Education, training, mentoring, networking and advocacy will be the avenues for achieving these goals. Members want to provide thoughtful programming to enable women—and men—to make close connections that will lead to successful careers. A well-organized mentorship program has been developed as one of empoWer’s key strategies for helping women succeed in their careers.

EmpoWer members held a launch event in May 2014 to introduce themselves to women manufacturing professionals, get their input on valuable programs and describe the mentorship program they envision. More than 80 women and a few men from Wisconsin and Illinois turned out to show their interest. They agreed there was a need for a group like empoWer that seeks to make a difference.

The new program will connect students, displaced workers and entry-level professionals with mentors who will guide, encourage and foster professional growth. To help motivated students and other career-seekers, mentors will meet with them, listen, suggest areas for professional growth and introduce them to their workplace and other manufacturing professionals. Through their experiences, mentors will talk with mentees about interview skills, workplace behavior and dress, their career paths and trends in manufacturing. This fall, empoWer will hold another event to expand awareness of its mentorship program.

While empoWer is based in Wisconsin, it may inspire other regional industry organizations, such as TDMAW, to organize like-minded programs. The skills gap threatens manufacturers throughout the country, but by working together, industry leaders have many ways to attract the workforce they need for the future.

To get involved or for more information about how you can form a similar program in your part of the country, send an email to empower@tdmaw.org, or contact Lyndsay Zwirlein, Business Banker, PNC Bank, at Lyndsay.Zwirlein@pnc.com


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