The Importance of Diversity in Manufacturing
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) has taken center stage in nearly all industries across the globe—and for good reason. While DE&I can be seen simply as good PR, there are hard numbers attached to its success. In fact, we’ve learned that employee performance in diverse teams “is 12 percent higher than employee performance in companies with no inclusivity efforts.” Employees also tend to be more motivated when they’re happy with their company’s DE&I strategy; studies show these workers are 19 percent more likely to stay with a company committed to these efforts, and collaboration with peers is 57 percent more effective. A strong focus on DE&I fosters a demonstrably more positive working culture. It creates top performers, it fosters innovation, and it inspires. Simply put, it’s good business.
We’ve written about the labor shortage in manufacturing, caused for the most part by the coronavirus pandemic. There is a deficit of over 500,000 manufacturing industry jobs at the moment. Manufacturing jobs tend to have a less-than-stellar reputation, especially among the younger generations. But there is also a need for a more diverse workforce within the industry—specifically when it comes to women. An article from Deloitte hones in on the male-dominated aspect of the job, noting that less than one-third of professionals in manufacturing are women—but females make up half the United States workforce. Women are also more likely to abandon the industry than men. Why? For one thing, there is a decided lack of work/life balance and flexibility in these types of jobs. While the pay and benefits may be intriguing for some, working conditions make it difficult to start and raise families (a solid parental leave policy is incredibly important for women both with and without children). Attrition among women can also be attributed to harassment, unequal pay, and being passed over for new opportunities within their organizations.
It’s critical for a business’s bottom line to commit to a robust DE&I strategy. With more female participation in manufacturing, we can break down the societal stereotypes that this is a “no girls allowed” career. Changing the reputation now will pay for itself in the generations to come, with newly inducted female leaders serving as role models and mentors for younger women. Slowly chipping away at the underrepresentation is the best way to change peoples’ mindsets.
But how can industry leaders appeal to these groups? According to Deloitte, “Manufacturers cannot just focus on recruiting diverse talent, but must continue to focus attentively on building an inclusive culture, fostering growth opportunities and pathways to careers, and living these values at every level of the organization. This effort should start with leadership, who must do the hard work to educate themselves about DE&I so they can create this culture.” To start, some manufacturers focus on the top of the food chain: Hiring females that hold manager-level or executive positions can increase the number of female job applicants—these applicants can finally see themselves having a seat at the table within the industry. Managers can also adjust their hiring practices by incorporating diversity metrics, networking with organizations aligned with underrepresented communities, and introducing balance by looping diverse employees into the interview process. Incorporate your DE&I commitment into your website and job postings.
Education on this topic can go a long way. Consider tapping into a line of credit to tackle some DE&I courses for yourself and staff. Remember to keep yourself accountable: incorporate DE&I into your company’s annual goals or KPIs and deliver a quarterly status update so everyone knows how you’re progressing. And lean on your current staff to help create strategies to improve DE&I in your organization.
DE&I is not a one-person job. It requires the care and attention of everyone in your workforce—it’ll eventually benefit us all. As we look to increase diversity and inclusion at all levels of the workforce, it’s important to remember that even the smallest strides are still better than none.