The Manufacturing Institute reports that 72% of manufacturers in their most recent survey say that they consider diversity a key focus for their company. That’s up from 64% a year ago.
More than 60% of respondents said they have more female employees now than they had a year ago.
Still, 50% said they had trouble hiring a diverse workforce and 40% said they have trouble keeping members of under-represented groups.
Deloitte agrees that diversity is an issue in manufacturing. “Manufacturing companies of all sizes are taking the National Association of Manufacturers’ Pledge for Action in the industry by 2030,” they explain in a new report: “a commitment to taking 50,000 tangible actions to increase equity and parity for underrepresented communities, creating 300,000 pathways to job opportunities for Black people and all people of color.”
In the same report, they mention that only 30% of workers in manufacturing right now are female and only 10% are people of color. Both these numbers are smaller than the proportions in the workforce as a whole. what’s more, they say that 25% of women currently working in manufacturing are thinking of leaving the field. “Women quote low wages, lack of flexible schedule options, and work-life balance as their top three reasons,” they say. Black workers are also more likely to say they might leave their manufacturing jobs, mostly because they don’t see chances for advancement.
And, while manufacturers in surveys speak up for diversity, the Manufacturer’s Alliance found that the actual numbers of people other than white men in manufacturing have gotten smaller over the past two decades.
Both reports acknowledge that one of the motivations to diversify is the labor shortage. Faced with a lack of qualified workers, manufacturers are looking for new populations and new pathways to get workers into their facilities. It is possible that approaching the issue with the mindset that we have to look beyond white men because we are running out of them may be less effective than focusing on the business value of diversity.
Only 42% of those surveyed by Manufacturers Alliance said that they understood the business value. Fully 20% said they saw no business value in diversity, while the remainder claimed that they believed there was value but couldn’t identify it.
Nonetheless, a noticeable minority of executives surveyed had special programs to recruit women or to mentor people from under-represented groups. Interestingly, while about 60% believed that programs like these would help, only about 30% had such programs in place.
Maybe it’s time for manufacturing to walk the walk instead of just talking the talk.