Cultivating Female Leadership in Manufacturing, Construction and Engineering

13th July 2018

As featured in Training Industry

Over 50 years of research has highlighted a clear link between women in leadership and increased business performance, yet statistics show that women are still in comparatively short supply throughout industries such as manufacturing, construction and engineering – particularly when it comes to management and director-level positions.

The most recent data available show that women make up 9.1 percent of the construction industry in the United States. Of these only 31 percent hold professional and managerial positions. In the manufacturing sector, women make up 29 percent of the workforce.Much attention has been paid to how women can be encouraged to work within these industries, yet we must place further focus on how, once they qualify and recruit them, male-dominated organizations can retain and develop female talent and a greater number of female leaders.

Hidden Opportunities

The lack of female leadership in manufacturing, construction and engineering comes down to a combination of factors. These industries simply aren’t promoted enough in schools as a desirable career choice – particularly for women – yet school is when young people often realize their aspirations and choose their career paths. There are numerous functions other than engineers and technicians supporting these industries that are seldom talked about.

Women are typically well represented in HR, marketing and public relations, and junior functions in these professions often attract women into organizations before they begin their upward trajectory through the companies’ hierarchy. However, in the manufacturing, construction and engineering, these functions are commonly outsourced, providing further explanation to why these industries generally lack female leadership.

The Parameters of Diversity

If organizations are serious about increasing the number of women they employ, they must take a proactive approach. Some are beginning to recognize the importance of nurturing more diverse workforces, yet many don’t know where to start. Mentoring schemes are an effective way to address this problem by facilitating the development of women into management positions by helping them to identify role models. However, these schemes often exclude male mentors and solely rely on senior female mentors, which side-steps the collaborative approach that is required to solve the problem.

Through a varied collective of individuals working together, approaching challenges from different angles and differing backgrounds, organizations can meet their objectives more efficiently and effectively. Companies can create additional training opportunities that promote group activity and encourage collaboration, as well as encouraging proactive involvement in extracurricular events such as fundraisers and corporate social events.

Developing the Collective

To inspire and support the development of female talent – or any talent that is under-represented in leadership – organizations must cultivate pools of talent that can develop and grow together. But individuals must also be able to work toward their own goals.