May 17, 2017  
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Women in Manufacturing: Making an Impact

The Manufacturing Institute, Deloitte and APICS have released a study titled “Women in Manufacturing: Stepping up to make an impact that matters.”

The joint study is the result of more than 600 survey responses from women professionals in the manufacturing industry, along with nearly 20 manufacturing executive interviews. The insights point to how companies can effectively recruit, retain and advance talented women in manufacturing, and illustrates ways that women in manufacturing are making an impact in the industry through programs like STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Production) Ahead.

This study confirms the importance of increasing the amount of women in the manufacturing workforce and that many manufacturers are missing a critical talent pool, which could aid in closing the skills gap. Some key highlights from the study include:

• Nearly three fourths (70 percent) of women indicate they would stay in manufacturing if they were to start their career today;
• Some of the most important employment characteristics for women in manufacturing include opportunities for challenging and interesting assignments, attractive pay, and work-life balance; and
• The most impactful programs to help retain women in manufacturing include formal and informal mentorship programs, flexible work practices, and increasing the visibility of key leaders who serve as role models.

TAPPI/PIMA Women in Industry Group Selects First Honoree

Founded in 2015, the TAPPI/PIMA Women in Industry Committee envisions a competitive, diverse and dynamic industry that offers long-term, fulfilling careers where women and men work in synergy. New for 2017, the Committee’s Woman of the Year Award seeks to further these goals, and to help share the stories of accomplished women in the industry. As the award’s first recipient, the committee has selected Nicki Slusser, president and COO of Jackson Paper Manufacturing.

Slusser came to Jackson Paper in January of 2013 as VP operations, after retiring from a 33-year career in the paper industry working for Georgia Kraft, Mead Corp., Champion Paper, and International Paper. She has served in her current post since August of 2014, and her leadership supports a culture of success and support for her employees and the community.

“Nicki understands the need for process improvement as it relates to maximizing profits through new technologies,” notes Randy Packer of the Summitt Group. “This thought process is passed on to her management team so everyone has a voice and is on the same page. Having been a former mill manager, she is extremely in touch with the day-to-day needs of her mill. Jackson is located in downtown Sylva, so a close relationship with the city and county are key to the success of the mill. They are like family.”

Slusser has served as a PIMA board member and as president of PIMA in 2000. A TAPPI Fellow, she also served as a TAPPI board member from 2008-2010. “It’s always an honor to be recognized by your colleagues for your contributions to the industry,” said Slusser on receiving the award.

The Women In Industry Committee offers educational programs and a dynamic forum for knowledge sharing and support. To learn more, visit the group’s TAPPI Connect page.

The study also examines the positive impact of STEP Ahead, reporting insights from former honorees and emerging leaders who indicate STEP Ahead has helped raise the visibility of opportunities for women in the industry, manufacturing opportunities in the community, and opportunities for women within their companies. The STEP Ahead honorees and emerging leaders have reached an estimated 300,000 individuals—from peers in the industry to school age children—as a result of their active industry engagement:

• Nearly 90 percent indicate they are engaged with individuals to raise the visibility of the industry;
• 92 percent are engaged in efforts in the development of women; and
• 70 percent are engaged with K-12 system to encourage young girls and boys to consider careers in manufacturing.

“Our research estimates that the cumulative manufacturing skills gap — or the positions that likely won’t be filled due to a lack of skilled workers — will grow to two million between 2015 and 2025,” said Craig Giffi, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and US automotive practice leader.

“The industry is missing out on a critical talent resource to help advance innovation in manufacturing, increase America’s competitiveness in the global manufacturing landscape and close the skills gap,” added Trina Huelsman, vice chairman, co-author of the research, Deloitte & Touche LLP.

“Unleashing the potential of women in manufacturing can reap big rewards. Organizations that make recruitment, retention and advancement of women a strategic priority can bring diverse decision making perspectives, drive innovative and creative solutions and can achieve overall better business performance.”

While there has been an overall positive change in attitudes toward women employees, women still make up only 29 percent of the US manufacturing workforce, while they make up approximately half of the total US labor force[i]. In an effort to improve this, The Manufacturing Institute is promoting the role of women in manufacturing through mentoring, recognition, research, and leadership with the STEP Ahead initiative.

“Many outstanding women leaders are making huge strides in building and promoting the manufacturing industry and are demonstrating what modern manufacturing offers—rewarding and fulfilling careers with limitless opportunity for growth. Today’s manufacturing employees are building and designing the future, and women in manufacturing serve as ambassadors to move this industry forward,” said Jay Timmons, president and CEO, National Association of Manufacturers.

“This study is an important step in understanding how we as an industry can make supply chain careers more attractive to women,” said Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE, APICS chief executive officer. “At APICS, we are dedicated to workforce development initiatives that address the supply chain talent gap. Ensuring more women join the manufacturing workforce and find a path to success is a key part of the solution. We are proud that STEP Ahead honorees include 12 APICS members.”

Added Institute Assistant Vice President AJ Jorgenson. “Through STEP Ahead, hundreds of women from all levels of manufacturing have been recognized for excellence and leadership in their careers. By telling the real stories of these women, girls will be inspired to familiarize themselves with manufacturing through our mentorship program and eventually become the next manufacturing leaders.”

Learn more about the study at:


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