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Why Women Are the Future of Manufacturing

Adeline de Oliveira
Front view of a female worker wearing a safety helmet and holding an open laptop in a factory
  • "Only 12% of all manufacturers in the US are women, according to a report from the US Census Bureau in 2020. This figure is significantly lower than in other industries, where women are typically around 50% of working professionals." – Accounting Professor
  • "Although women represent almost half of the workforce in the UK, they account for only 26% of all workers in the manufacturing sector." – LinkedIn

In the Industry 4.0 and Industry 5.0 era, the manufacturing sector is at a crossroads where the integration of intelligent machines and a focus on people are redefining production paradigms. This new era, which is still in its infancy, promises transformations that go beyond automation and efficiency, aiming to harmonize technological advances with human and environmental values. 

Among all the topics and questions raised by this evolution, we've chosen today to talk to you about women and their place in the manufacturing sector at the age of 5.0. As a driving force, they are also emerging as leaders capable of catalyzing innovation and growth, shaping the future of this field. 

Importance, skills, challenges, strategies for greater inclusivity: let's discover together why the growing involvement of women in manufacturing companies is not only desirable, but also necessary to face the new realities of Industry 5.0.

Key takeways:

  • Gender diversity in manufacturing enhances innovation, profitability, and return on equity by fostering a more creative and inclusive working environment.
  • Women bring unique strengths to leadership roles in manufacturing, including collaboration, communication, empathy, and organizational skills, which are crucial for the challenges of Industry 5.0.
  • Women in manufacturing encounter significant barriers, including lack of flexibility, childcare support, and female role models, which can hinder their career advancement in the sector.
  • Encouraging women in manufacturing requires inclusive corporate cultures, flexible work arrangements, suitable facilities, and targeted recruitment initiatives to improve gender diversity.
  • Empowering women in manufacturing is essential for the sector's growth in the Industry 5.0 era, demanding a shift towards gender equality and valuing diversity for a more sustainable industry.

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The importance of a diverse workforce

Research shows that gender diversity benefits a manufacturing firm through improved ability to innovate, higher return on equity (ROE), and increased profitability. When employees believe their organization is committed to inclusion, they report better business performance in terms of their ability to innovate.


The importance of having a diverse workforce in manufacturing, and more broadly across all industries, is a topic increasingly highlighted in discussions of business performance and innovation. Teams made up of diverse individuals are more likely to be creative, to offer a wider range of perspectives, and to find innovative solutions to complex problems

If we focus primarily on gender, we realize that this kind of diversity has a positive impact on several key areas for the company:


Studies show that mixed-gender teams often outperform others, for a number of reasons. 

Firstly, gender diversity helps to create a more balanced and inclusive working environment, where every employee feels valued and engaged, which has a positive impact on efficiency and productivity.

Secondly, this wealth of people, and therefore of points of view, encourages better problem-solving and more informed decision-making, again contributing to higher productivity.


Women and men may have different approaches to technical challenges, risk management, creativity and so on. So, having individuals of different genders allows us to benefit from many different perspectives. This creates a pool of ideas, opinions, expertise and experience that is highly conducive to innovation and the invention of original solutions. 


A study by McKinsey revealed that gender diversity in executive teams is strongly correlated with increased profitability and value creation.

Having a diverse workforce isn't just a matter of social justice; it's also a smart business strategy. A great deal of research has established a link between gender diversity, particularly in leadership roles, and better financial performance. Companies that harness the full potential of all their employees tend to be more competitive, resilient and profitable.

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The skills that make women great leaders

Women portray the largest pool of untapped talent for manufacturing. The need for women isn't solely for numbers or to fill gaps – women consistently provide levels of creativity, empathy, organization, an eye for detail, and the capacity for leadership.


The increased presence of women in leadership and management roles can significantly transform the manufacturing sector. Female leadership styles, often characterized by a more collaborative, empathetic and inclusive approach, are particularly well suited to managing the challenges of Industry 5.0. Let's not forget that this evolution advocates a more humane way of working, more respectful of ethical and environmental aspects. So there's an obvious correlation between the two.

Let's take a closer look at these "natural" aptitudes often attributed to women, and their usefulness in terms of leadership:

List of the skills generally associated to women that make them great leaders

Communication skills 

Being able to communicate effectively is essential for clearly articulating an organization's vision and mission, aligning teams around common goals, facilitating dialogue between different departments and with external stakeholders, and effectively managing conflict

Knowing how to communicate in a transparent, persuasive and caring way helps create a stimulating and healthy work environment, where information flows freely, fostering innovation and problem-solving.

Collaboration skills

Factory work is, above all, collaborative. Each team is made up of a number of employees tasked with working together to accomplish a task towards a specific goal. 

Leaders who value and encourage collaboration can capitalize on everyone's strengths, then direct those same strengths to create new things and improve production processes. 

The collaborative approach is particularly relevant in Industry 5.0, which demands cooperation not only between humans, but also with machines and intelligent systems.

Organization skills

A good leader needs to be well organized. This is even more true in a dynamic and demanding sector such as manufacturing. 

Through various studies and observations, women have rightly demonstrated excellent organizational skills: effective project management, rigorous strategic planning, the ability to keep teams aligned on common objectives, and to adapt quickly, even in complex and/or changing environments

This ability to methodically organize resources, whether human, material or financial, is a major asset in meeting the challenges of 5.0.

When women are among leaders in organizations, there is a wider lens of strategic thinking; groups/divisions can weather problems and issues better, and can identify innovative solutions faster.


Empathy and emotional intelligence

Understanding and managing emotions, both one's own and those of others, is crucial to motivating teams, better managing stress and building solid relationships. Empathy and emotional intelligence, often strong in women, are leadership skills that can make a big difference in a rapidly changing industrial environment.

Coaching skills

As a result of the qualities mentioned above, women often demonstrate a natural ability to adopt a coaching posture, i.e., to be both supportive and motivating. It is an essential skill when managing teams, particularly as a frontline manager. As a result, they often find it easier to understand and respond to their employees' needs while guiding them towards achieving common goals. 

By integrating their "natural" coaching skills into front-line management, women can strengthen team cohesion, boost motivation and improve overall performance.

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Typical challenges women face in manufacturing

According to a study conducted by the Manufacturing Institute, there are several significant challenges for women working in the manufacturing sector:

  • Lack of flexibility (job sharing, split shifts, telecommuting): 63.10% 
  • Lack of childcare support: 49.20% 
  • Lack of female role models: 43.32% 
  • Minimal opportunities for advancement: 39.57% 
  • Insufficient compensation: 31.55%

Despite the obvious opportunities presented by women in leadership positions, the manufacturing sector is still a long way from achieving gender parity. Women pursuing a career in this field may encounter several obstacles linked to perceptions of the industry and more profound structural and cultural barriers. 

These obstacles can hinder their entry, progression, and fulfillment in this traditionally male-dominated world. 

Here are some of the main challenges women may face:

Gender stereotypes and unconscious biases

Persistent stereotypes about "appropriate" roles for men and women can discourage women from pursuing careers in manufacturing. For example, the idea that men are naturally more suited to physical or technical tasks, while women would be better suited to administrative or support roles.

In addition, unconscious biases can influence hiring, promotion, and appraisal decisions, limiting opportunities for women to progress in their careers. It can include, for example, giving preference to male candidates for critical roles or promotions because they "fit in better" with the team or job expectations.

Lack of female role models

The absence of women in leadership or technical roles within the manufacturing sector can make it difficult for newcomers to imagine a successful career in this field.  

Lack of flexibility

The demanding work schedules and night shifts standard in the manufacturing sector can be particularly problematic for women, especially those with family responsibilities. The difficulty of balancing professional and personal demands can discourage some from remaining in this sector.

Corporate culture and harassment

A corporate culture that fosters macho behavior or fails to take harassment complaints seriously creates a hostile working environment for women. Not only can this affect their well-being, but it can also undermine their motivation and drive them to change fields.

The pay gap

In many other sectors, there is a pay gap between men and women in some manufacturing companies. Why, then, should women continue to work for an organization that doesn't pay them what they're worth, or at least in the same way as their male counterparts?

7 Ways to encourage women to make a career in manufacturing

To overcome the above barriers and inspire women to pursue careers in manufacturing, organizations need to take proactive steps to create more inclusive and equitable work environments

Here are 7 recommended approaches to achieve this:

List of 7 ways to encourage women to pursue a career in manufacturing

1. Promote an inclusive corporate culture

Awareness-raising and training: Implement training programs for all employees, including management, on the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), as well as how to recognize and combat unconscious bias.

Anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies: Establish zero-tolerance policies towards harassment and discrimination, with clear, accessible, and confidential avenues of redress for victims.

Diversity objectives: Set clear objectives for diversity and inclusion, then integrate them into company strategies, with performance indicators to measure progress.

Accountability and transparency: Communicate openly about progress on diversity and inclusion objectives, then incorporate these objectives into managers' performance appraisals.

2. Improve work-life balance

Flexible schedules: Offer flexible work options, such as telecommuting, flextime, or flexible shifts, to help all employees better manage their personal and professional obligations.

Parental and care leave: Offer generous parental and care leave for mothers and fathers. It will also encourage shared responsibility for care within the home.

3. Provide suitable equipment and facilities

Adapted personal protective equipment (PPE): Ensure that protective equipment is available in sizes and designs suitable for women's safety and comfort.

Improve facilities: Investing in sanitary facilities and changing rooms that are safe and comfortable for women can be a good idea.

4. Launch targeted recruitment initiatives

Inclusive recruitment: Use recruitment practices aimed at reaching a wide range of female candidates, making sure to use inclusive language in job advertisements and diversifying recruitment channels.

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5. Offer compelling arguments

Competitive compensation: Ensure that salaries, benefits, and other forms of compensation in your company are not only aligned with market standards but also gender equitable. 

Stimulating and rewarding positions: Create work opportunities that interest and challenge women and enable them to use their skills, innovate, and grow professionally fully.

6. Encourage mentoring and networking

Mentoring programs: Offer mentoring programs to support women at different stages of their manufacturing careers, pairing them with experienced mentors, with female rather than male figures, where possible.

Networking groups: Encourage the formation of professional networks for women, offering opportunities for connection, experience sharing, and mutual support.

7. Value and recognize women's contributions

Visibility and recognition: Highlight the achievements of women in the company through awards, internal and external communications profiles, and industry events to reinforce female role models.

Empowering women in manufacturing for a successful future

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.

Jay Timmons President and CEO, National Association of Manufacturers, in Deloitte

For manufacturing to thrive in the Industry 5.0 era and beyond, we need to break down the barriers that prevent women from fully participating. It means challenging gender stereotypes, providing equal opportunities for professional and leadership development, and valuing the unique skills and perspectives that women bring to the table. By making gender equality a strategic priority, organizations in this field can become more inclusive, innovative, resilient, and competitive.

Let's face it: the future of manufacturing lies in our collective ability to embrace and value diversity in all its forms. Empowering women to contribute fully to this sector isn't just a matter of equality or conforming to societal expectations; it's a crucial step towards building a more dynamic, sustainable and open industry, capable of meeting the challenges and seizing the opportunities of Industry 5.0

By investing in women's potential, the manufacturing sector can prepare its own future and contribute to a more equitable and prosperous world for all. That's why it's essential to start making the right moves and taking action now. 

FAQ on women in manufacturing

How does gender diversity impact productivity in manufacturing?


How does gender diversity impact innovation in manufacturing?


Why is gender diversity important for manufacturing companies?


What leadership qualities do women bring to the manufacturing industry?


What strategies can help attract more women to the manufacturing industry?


Women leadership: Taking the Industry 5.0 road!

Don't wait any longer. Take the initiative to promote gender equality and support women's careers in your company. Contact the experts at Proaction International for tailor-made advice to help make gender diversity a success driver for your manufacturing business and align you with 5.0 principles.

Adeline de Oliveira

Adeline de Oliveira

Writer and editorial manager for about 15 years, Adeline de Oliveira is passionate about human behavior and communication dynamics. At Proaction International, she covers topics ranging from Industry 5.0 to operational excellence, with a focus on leadership development. This expertise enables her to offer insights and advice on employee engagement and continuous improvement of managerial skills.