In a recent NY Times article, Instead of Work, Younger Women Head to School the image of “manufacturing jobs” is tarred with a very large and dirty old brush. The article reinforces the old stereotype that all manufacturing jobs are physically taxing “line” jobs, and that they now no longer offer any retirement benefits. The article doesn’t explore that today’s manufacturing jobs are very well suited to women precisely because they are now less labor intensive (ah, the benefits of technology!) and require those skills many attribute to the “gentler gender”: emotional intelligence, communication skills, strength in cognition and analysis, and creative problem-solving. This is true from the front-line to the executive office.
There are many manufacturing jobs going unfilled today because the old stereotype of manufacturing is still prevalent and this often dissuades women from considering manufacturing as a fulfilling career. A November 2011 report (U.S. Manufacturing Jobs: Where the Companies are Hiring) from the Center for Regional Competitiveness describes how manufacturers are desperately in need of production workers, but also sales representatives, engineers, managers, and computer systems analysts These jobs pay good, family-supporting wages and manufacturers are well-known for providing health, education and retirement benefits. It might be better for job seekers of both genders to seek out accurate information about today’s jobs from their local Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Centers than rely on potentially outdated descriptions of various industries.
There is so little time to waste when it comes to supporting American manufacturing. Its growth is leading the way out of the recession and the sooner we can fill manufacturing’s open job positions, the better off we will all be.