Equality in manufacturing: What’s in the way?
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
After decades of men and women working alongside one another, it's both surprising and disheartening that there is still a gender war simmering. Women have been vying for equal placement alongside male counterparts since ancient sailors forbade their presence on sailing ships.
Too different, too emotional, too fragile — the list of "toos" stretches well into the hundreds, if you were to ask a woman today. As the old pay gap joke goes, if you had a dollar for every time a woman's gender was unfairly used to hold her back, you'd have 78 cents.
Personally-held beliefs are one thing, but when those gender-based biases trespass into the office, companies don't just stand to run afoul of enlightened ethics, they could be breaking the law.
The memo heard 'round the world
A memo penned by a now-former employee of Google sent shock waves through Silicon Valley earlier this month. The promptly-fired author of the memo tried to make a case for the tired trope that women are, among other things, passive, neurotic and too empathetic for certain kinds of work.
The issue is, as it always has been, that the data simply doesn't agree with that notion. The fact that the so-called manifesto was not only penned in the first place, but also distributed and widely broadcast on major networks tells the world that this problem is not a new one, nor is it going away.
Despite its swift action to terminate the author of the memo, Google is also under fire for allegedly systematically underpaying its female employees. If Google — long held up as a role model for an inclusive workplace — is stumbling so publicly, what does that say about other business niches?
So what can manufacturing do?
While manufacturing may not be quite as cutthroat as certain areas of Silicon Valley, it isn't immune to the same kind of sexism. The idea that women can't step into manufacturing and 3PL leadership roles traditionally held by men is a pervasive one — just a glance at the multiple groups formed specifically to dispel myths and support women in these spheres is telling.
Manufacturing should, and must, make the workplace an opportunity open to all, regardless of creed or gender. Further, it must go beyond passive lowering of barriers into active recruitment of female leadership for top roles — the female talent is available, but male counterparts tend to to be the abundant, low-hanging fruit that obscures it. The extra step of seeking out these candidates makes all the difference in the eyes of both your new female staff and of diversity-minded stakeholders.
Manufacturers can also flesh out and expand their stated diversity initiatives. They can ensure that ample training is given on avoiding gender biases, particularly for hiring managers and above. As a former Uber board member found out the hard way earlier this year, the presence of one woman in a leadership role is also statistically significant when it comes to encouraging others to follow suit.
Equality in any industry, manufacturing included, begins with a fundamental shift in corporate thinking, expression and culture.
If a workplace isn't made to operate in an inclusive fashion, a woman considering employment with the company has to weigh the potential problems she might face with sexism, as well as through the rigors of the job. That's two strikes against a business before they've even gone up to bat — and by any count, those aren't good odds for landing a high-quality female employee.
Make sure your manufacturing workplace is welcoming to women, and diversity will feel more like a natural discovery than a conscious effort.
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