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CPBJ Extra Blog

Moving women to manufacturing

By - Last modified: January 25, 2013 at 9:38 AM
Jim T. Ryan
Jim T. Ryan

Women represent a powerful and growing segment of today's workforce.

Some industries have more women than others. And other industries, such as manufacturing, are seeking more women for the intellect, skills and perspectives they can bring to companies.

Some folks may have seen my Twitter posts from Lebanon County-based PRL Inc. in recent weeks, where state DCED Secretary C. Alan Walker made an announcement about interest rates on state loans to manufacturers.

If you don't know, PRL — a manufacturer of metal parts — is run by a woman, President and CEO Janis Herschkowitz. She was honored recently by the Manufacturing Institute along with 121 other women executives around the country for their roles in manufacturing. Here is a link to all honorees.

The institute's awards are part of its STEP initiative to bring women into the manufacturing workforce.

Other manufacturing groups also are renewing efforts to bring women into the factory, including the Precision Metalforming Association with its Women in Manufacturing initiative. You can find that site here.

Here's a recent CNN Money story about women in manufacturing that outlines some of the reasoning for women in manufacturing, as well as a training program.

I started thinking, how many women are in manufacturing? And are women heeding the call to join the factory ranks?

Essentially, the answer is no, they're not rushing to the assembly line, at least not in the past year. The chart at the bottom of this page offers a look at some of the recent statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic.

That's rather mundane growth compared with the education and health fields, where there are nearly 15.8 million women representing almost 77 percent of the workforce, and the number of women in those fields grew by 351,000 over the past year.

Likewise, the number of women in professional and business services grew by 172,000 in the last year, and today women account for more than 44 percent of the workforce. In financial activities, the number of women employed grew by just 31,000, but women account for more than 58 percent of the workforce in those fields. Full stats on women in the workplace can be found here.

So, yeah, it's understandable manufacturing would want to pump up the image of women in the factory or — as is the case with Herschkowitz — running the company.

But consider this: Does pay disparity between men and women have something to do with number of women in an industry? Possibly, given this graph from the BLS that maps the size of industries and women's pay as a percentage of men's. For example, women's pay in manufacturing is about 74 percent of male counterparts' pay. In education and health, that rises to 77 percent.

However, that doesn't account for the anomaly in financial activities, where women make up a majority of the workforce, but their pay is just 70 percent of male colleagues.

I guess there are many X factors not being accounted for here. I'd certainly like to hear from women. Why are you in the industry you're in? Is pay an issue? What about education, job requirements and personal preferences? Email me.

Jim T. Ryan covers Cumberland County, manufacturing, transportation and workforce issues. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at You can also follow him on Twitter, @JimTRyanCPBJ.

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