HR diversity enhances innovation and profitability, and narrows the labor gap, say participants of recent on-site meeting…

Sussex IM’s recent on-site meeting of Women in Manufacturing (WiM) membership underscored the desire of both women professionals and manufacturing management to forge closer bonds, to the mutual benefit of all.

SussexIM, which has experienced double-digit growth over the last five years, is recognized as the innovative, full-service, fully-automated supplier of plastic products for companies in both
B-to-B and B-to-C. Women in Manufacturing is a national trade association focused on supporting, promoting, and inspiring women in the manufacturing sector.

“The manufacturing sector is changing, and fast,” said Teresa Schell, President and Owner of the Milwaukee-based Vive, LLC, and head of the local WiM chapter. “Yes, it is still male-dominated. However opportunities in manufacturing are growing for women – and in management, not only on the shop floor.

“Our WiM chapter, while new, is bringing women together and building confidence in exploring the many professional possibilities in manufacturing,” Schell said.

According to SussexIM’s Supply Chain Manager, Christine Fenzl, “Company cultures have certainly evolved, as management realizes that women are manufacturing’s largest pool of untapped talent. It’s not a completely man’s world any longer.” Added Gigi Cheung, Sussex IM’s Production Scheduler, “Today, manufacturing offers women job opportunities in management – especially as education, and perceptions about our sector – adapt to today’s realities. In the years ahead, I for see the number of women in manufacturing doubling. It’s not just labor-work for guys anymore.”

A recent Deloitte report noted that women represent nearly half (47 percent) of the total U.S. labor force, yet comprise less than a third (27 percent) of the manufacturing workforce.The report added that manufacturing faces an estimated two million worker shortfall over the next decade, and manufacturing executives responding to a recent skills gap study report six out of 10 positions are currently unfilled due to the skills gap.

“With women representing less than a third of the manufacturing workforce, it’s clear manufacturers are missing out on a critical talent pool, which could prove invaluable in closing the skills gap,” added WiM’s Schell. “Diversity contributes to both innovation and, by extension, profitability.”

In fact, a recent study by Catalyst, a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding opportunities for women and business, found that Fortune 500 companies with high percentages of women officers had a 35 percent higher return on equity and a 34 percent higher total return than companies with fewer women executives.

“As with innovation, cultural change begins at the top,” said Megan Tzanoukakis, the newly-promoted Fulfillment Manager of Sussex IM’s new Business-to-Consumer division – Sussex Brands. “Our company’s culture encourages all of us to do our best, in a collegial, laid-back environment, unlike some of my colleagues pursuing careers in professional services. I’m not sitting behind a desk all day. I’m involved in both the strategy and the physical creation of real products found on store shelves. There’s a certain pride that goes with that, a feeling that ‘hey, I helped make that.’”