Woman’s Work


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about today’s jobs from their local Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Centers than rely on potentially outdated descriptions of various industries.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.

About Author

Stacey Wagner

Guest blogger Stacey Jarrett Wagner has more than 20 years of experience in workforce development, conducting research and providing strategic thinking and technical assistance on workforce development issues.


  1. Stacy, this is an excellent point and serves to remind us that we need to pay close attention to old stereotypes that keeping re-appearing. It is a tired misconception that young women are not interested in science, math and engineering. Eileen Byrne in her excellent book, Women and Science – the Snark Syndrome, laments the continuation of this perception and identifies several important factors that education and industry can provide to encourage and support women interested in these fields – such as experienced mentors and coaches. It is also interesting to note that the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prizes in the 2011 Google International Science Fair were awarded to young American women. In the past few years, a number of MEP Centers have identified the need to raise the profile of manufacturing in order to attract more young people to the field. Perhaps we would do well to begin to identify specific tactics to encourage and support young women who already have both the aptitude and interest. If you haven’t seen it already, check out the site engineergirl.com. It was developed by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. In addition, IEEE has developed the excellent video on IEEE tv called Nerd Girls – available at the IEEE Women in Engineering website.

  2. Yes, yes!
    At a growing rate, women are taking over their family businesses – many of them in the manufacturing sector. What a sea change in the way companies are being run by these smart, engaged and innovative daughters. Together, we must stand up and demonstrate what an important influence women are having in manufacturing. We must help our girls and young women see the impact that they can have in society at large, and manufacturing in particular!

  3. Pingback: Manufacturing Career « Andrew Goodwater

  4. “There is so little time to waste when it comes to supporting American manufacturing” – that’s exactly what I wanted to say just after reading the first lines. This is really sad that manufacturing is still associated with something dirty, dull and enduring, that’s one of the reasons we are giving in to China products at frustrating rates. At least two generations of women in my family were involved in manufacturing and I know that today things are not the same as, say, 50 years ago. Today’s manufacturing jobs need intelligence, concentration, accuracy and communication skills, the properties more typical for women. Promoting manufacturing jobs among young women needs to be implemented at schools. And if a woman is concerned about career, in manufacturing there are more than sufficient opportunities.

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