Research shows that making women feel welcome in manufacturing carries many benefits, including increasing profitability, diversity, and innovation.
Women can bring collaborative thinking, one foundation for effective strategic thinking, as well as seeing how all the dots connect in a situation. And, across many industries, diverse perspectives have proven to increase innovation, especially in culturally safe environments.
In some companies, women have led the way for a greater understanding of employee experience, which has led to better hiring practices, engagement, and retention.
Research has shown that women’s unique perspectives have changed manufacturing environments – positively impacting the bottom line.
Three things manufacturers can do to make women feel welcome
The first is to create an environment of respect and professionalism. A respectful culture is the basic bottom line to make women feel welcome at your company.
Treat employees as people versus “genders.” This perspective can be a huge paradigm shift for some, but it helps leaders and employees alike see the full potential, strengths, and talents throughout their workforce.
Include women in all areas of leadership and make them part of the new hire interview process. You want potential employees, including women, to see that all people in the company are valued and respected.
And lastly, pay women well and equally for the job they’re doing and the value they bring to the job and your company.
Invisible biases that can make women feel unwelcome or less confident
Second generation bias is a more subtle, less explicit gender bias that is often unintentional. In most cases, this bias is based on gender stereotypes and expectations.
Through awareness, it’s possible to overcome second generation gender bias that may be present in your company. For example, create a culture in which men and women have the opportunity to work in all jobs for which they are qualified. Review your recruiting, hiring, and promotional practices to ensure they are fair and promote diversity. Women in leadership positions can mentor and develop younger women for career advancement.
Sexual harassment is tougher to deal with as it’s often invisible. Women will sometimes hesitate to speak up because they’re not sure if their company culture is safe and will protect them if they do disclose. They may also feel compelled to downplay the significance of what occurred because they’re not sure their employer will take them seriously or they may face retaliation.
Longstanding biases can also come into play. What one person views as “friendly,” another person may deem overly familiar or invading her space in a threatening way.
It’s important, therefore, to create an environment of respect and professionalism, including appropriate behaviors and language – for both men and women.
It also helps to understand that some people are simply not self-aware and may not understand their language or behavior isn’t work-friendly. Calling the employee aside for a brief conversation can go far in diffusing potential incidents.
Above all, create a culture of respect that makes it safe for all workers to express their concerns and experiences.
What women can do to improve manufacturing cultures
I’m a big believer in looking at both sides of an issue, which means, women also have a responsibility for being agents of change in their workplaces.
For example, women need to make sure they’re acting professionally while at work and treating male coworkers with respect.
This means being aware of any unprofessional messages they’re sending through their behavior or communication style. Some people aren’t as self-aware as others, so if needed, ask a manager to communicate what is appropriate in a non-threatening, safe manner.
Most important, women must have the courage to speak up. Women need to be their own best advocates and raise their hands to learn new skills, apply for promotions, and get involved in leadership opportunities.
Manufacturers who create cultures that give all people a voice, allow people to grow and gain new skills, and that encourage and value new ideas will reap the rewards of increased productivity and innovation.