Last week, the Manufacturing Institute, Deloitte and APICS released a study, “Women in Manufacturing: Stepping up to make an impact that matters.” The study is the result of more than 600 survey responses from women professionals in the manufacturing industry, along with nearly 20 manufacturing executive interviews. The insights point to how companies can effectively recruit, retain and advance talented women in manufacturing, and illustrates ways that women in manufacturing are making an impact in the industry through programs like STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Ahead.

This study confirms the importance of increasing the amount of women in the manufacturing workforce and that many manufacturers are missing a critical talent pool, which could aid in closing the skills gap. Some key highlights from the study include:

  • Nearly three fourths (70 percent) of women indicate they would stay in manufacturing if they were to start their career today
  • Some of the most important employment characteristics for women in manufacturing include opportunities for challenging and interesting assignments, attractive pay, and work-life balance; and
  • The most impactful programs to help retain women in manufacturing include formal and informal mentorship programs, flexible work practices, and increasing the visibility of key leaders who serve role models.

The study also examines the positive impact of the STEP Ahead program, reporting insights from former honorees and emerging leaders who indicate STEP Ahead has helped raise the visibility of opportunities for women in the industry, manufacturing opportunities in the community, and opportunities for women within their companies. The STEP Ahead honorees and emerging leaders have reached an estimated 300,000 individuals – from peers in the industry to school age children – as a result of their active industry engagement.

This year, one of the institute’s STEP Ahead honorees was – Kimberly Howard, the vice president and general manager of Glass Reinforcements for the Americas at Owens Corning and current Vice Chairman of the American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA)’s Board of Directors.

Howard started her career with Owens Corning more than 20 years ago, and has grown from an entry-level analyst to one of the company’s top leaders. In her current position at Owens Corning, she leads a global business with approximately $750M in annual revenue and more than 2,500 employees spanning four countries.

She is responsible for creating and executing Owens Corning’s growth strategy in the Americas, and has successfully commercialized net products every year, which has delivered growth and incremental gross margin for the business. She has also overseen the Owens Corning’s expanded capacity in Latin America and Mexico to capture the global commercial opportunity created for the business. Additionally, she was responsible for Owens Cornings’ rebuild of its assets in the region with record-breaking vertical start-ups.