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Women in Manufacturing: Pointing Industry Toward a New Horizon

By Sandi Coyne, Goodwin College, Program Director, Master of Science in Organizational Leadership

“Women have been trained to speak softly and carry a lipstick. THOSE DAYS ARE OVER.” — Bella Abzug


It is a new day! But for women over 50 it is a time for direction and possibility. Sure, you have had a career and opportunities but now you have the chance to retool those skills and take them back to the workplace in a different way, different place, different time! As we recareer, we still want great jobs, ones that create flexible, positive lives for ourselves and for our families. But it might sound easier than it is for any of us! Even with recareering, why don’t women consistently select careers with greater potential?

In Connecticut alone, there are thousands of open manufacturing positions waiting for properly trained workers. Now is the time to put your recareering ideas on the front burner.

How and why do women — and men —facing recareering choose specific fields and does the difference in gender matter? An interesting point came to light in a 2016 National Bureau of Economic Research study, suggesting that much of the observed career and compensation imbalance between the sexes can be chalked up to benign differences in personal preferences. Based on the study of undergraduate female and male students, females tended to select industries and positions that afforded more shift options and greater security. Males, on the other hand, tended to select less stable and often riskier positions where higher incomes and greater potential growth are the norm. Though this is true for younger people perhaps it still is true in recareering.  Studies of risk acceptance and aversion aside….

What if women could enjoy better career options with flexible hours AND financial security?
Women tend toward the career paths of their mothers, grandmothers, friends, and role models — teaching or nursing, for example. Both are rewarding, meaningful choices certainly, but many women are wired differently. Faced with limited options, women who decide to recareer can easily find themselves trapped in careers selected mainly to accommodate their caring for family, particularly their elderly parents or other relatives. Nurturing seems to keep them out of the running for other, more lucrative, positions. This can — and must — change. It is time to make sure that women are able to consider industries with the right benefits, the right shifts, and the right wages.

A field that is currently expanding with new opportunities for women is manufacturing. While there is a tendency to think of manufacturing conditions as they existed in generations past, nothing could be farther from the truth today. Concerned about the stories that describe manufacturing as “dirty, dark, and dangerous?” The quality labs of today are often cleaner than our own kitchens! Manufacturing is evolving into new directions, where innovation, technology, and creativity are resulting in countless new positions!

Manufacturing pays better than many would expect. Compare the wages comparison of an entry-level bartender, $20,533, with those of an entry-level machinist, $32,763. And these are just entry level, with skills and opportunities there are bigger opportunities available!

Also consider that over the next 10 years, Connecticut advanced manufacturers, including Pratt and Whitney, Electric Boat, and Sikorsky, will need 25,000 career-ready, skilled workers. Growth potential and the opportunity for career advancement in manufacturing industries abound.

Peer pressure and perceptions may keep women from looking in this direction when planning their careers. The mothers and grandmothers didn’t go into manufacturing, so “what will people say” if that becomes their recareer choice? And for recareering women the concern that they really might be “too old” in terms of lifting and other expectations. These considerations limit the real impact of recareering, a chance to find a new direction and retool those skills from previous positions to a new and dynamic direction.

“Don’t waste your energy trying to change opinions… Do your thing and don’t care if they like it” — Tina Fey

The Deloitte and Manufacturing Institute reported that over 75 percent of women surveyed who work in manufacturing agreed that a manufacturing career is interesting and rewarding, emphasizing compensation and opportunities for challenging assignments as the top reasons to stay in the industry. The women currently in these jobs can see what is on the horizon for them and for other women. The women who were surveyed represented a cross section of women in terms of background, age, and position.

“The amount of good luck coming your way depends on your willingness to act” — Barbara Sher

For those intrigued by these possibilities and wondering if this is the right direction for them, the next question is finding the necessary training. Add to it the reality of your work ethic and commitment to doing a fabulous job and you are what employers in manufacturing are looking for! Many manufacturing companies today are willing to invest in people who need jobs and want to be part of the future workforce. For women who are recareering these options are still true. There are training programs, educational programs, and employer-affiliated programs to help interested workers join this economic movement. Some businesses are even hiring students still in the course of their educations, in effect paying them to go to school!

Natalie Schilling, HR Vice President at Alcoa, shared her view of what is happening in manufacturing and how to attract women for Forbes: “We as manufacturers need to demonstrate that we are responsive to the unique work-life challenges that women face — especially women who are or who plan to become mothers or have elderly or infirm relatives to care for. We may need to allow flexible work schedules or allow women to manage the speed of their careers depending on their responsibilities outside of work. We also need more men to lead the way toward a more diverse and inclusive manufacturing force.”

To provide some even stronger insights into your next steps why not consider attending Goodwin College’s Woman Of Manufactuing Event to be held at the Pent Road Location of Goodwin College. From 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, May 16, you will meet the right people and learn about what manufacturing can and will do for you!

To learn more about how Goodwin College’s manufacturing programs are opening doors into an industry that is growing by the minute please go to this link! Your “recareer” awaits!

About Sandi Coyne
Sandi Coyne has had an eclectic background in both education and nonprofit leadership. She utilizes strong and ethical business practice as a means to bring disenfranchised groups into society. She has worked with homeless people, people living with HIV/AIDS, foster children and women in transition. Whether working with students or community members she believes in helping them to find the way through to their goals. She has been in education in both administrative and faculty positions for a number of years. She specializes in working with adult students and embraces the power that education can mean for people in transition. From marketing to nonprofit leadership Sandi brings her experience to bear and enhance the educational experience. As a volunteer, she was one of the forces behind the development and opening of the Ronald McDonald House in Springfield, Massachusetts. She is honored to be a part of Goodwin College.

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