SME Celebrates Women in Manufacturing on International Women’s Day

Posted By: Jeff Krause, Chief Executive Officer, SME on March 14, 2018

SME Celebrates Women in Manufacturing on International Women’s Day

Last week, women across the world were celebrated on International Women's Day, part of Women's History Month. This month, our schools, workplaces, and communities recognize and celebrate the achievements made by American women.

As 2018 began, SME noted and recognized how American women had led the manufacturing industry's employment growth in 2017. The number of women in manufacturing grew by more than 2 percent – outpacing total nonfarm (1.4 percent), total women in nonfarm (1.3 percent) and total manufacturing (1.6 percent) employment growth rates. As the industry saw its third-highest year of employment growth in 20 years, women in manufacturing saw their best year of growth for the same period!

Presently, women in manufacturing have grown by 22,000 in just the first two months of 2018, the highest number of women employed in manufacturing since February 2009. Of the more than 12.5 million Americans that worked in manufacturing last year, nearly 3.5 million were women. As technologies advance and the workforce ages, it is clear to manufacturers that women – offering talent, ability and expertise – are a solution to our workforce skills gap.

We shouldn't forget the women in manufacturing who paved the way for others, and for industry, with their vital contributions throughout history. Women like Margaret E. Knight, who created a safer workplace and patented incredible machines; Madame CJ Walker, who inspired women by opening her own factory and becoming a self-made millionaire; and even "Rosie the Riveter," a representative icon that promoted the strength and fearlessness of American women as they entered the industrial workforce in numbers for the first time and built the Arsenal of Democracy.

While it’s important we recognize history, it's even more imperative we work towards inspiring the next generation, especially young women who are not yet equally represented in STEM-related careers. Like Mary Barra, chairman and CEO, General Motors Company and Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of Linamar Corporation, who recommend in a recent report, "To leverage the widest possible range of ideas and creativity, we must tap into the entire population in all its diversity."

American manufacturing is in the midst of an exciting revolution in new technologies, ideas and opportunities. By working to foster an innovative and inclusive culture, we can create a workforce where both men and women can thrive and advance. It's my privilege to be a part of this industry and part of an organization focused on creating a diverse, educated, inspired and prosperous manufacturing community.