Mother-Friendly Manufacturers

Based on a Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte study, the National Association of Manufacturers estimates that manufacturers will need to fill 4.6 million jobs by 2028. Can manufacturers help this statistic by focusing on and supporting working mothers? In a recent chat for USA Manufacturing Hour on Twitter, Host Whitney Koch from Welker Inc in Texas led a discussion about women in manufacturing and ways manufacturers can support working moms.

Women in Manufacturing

In 2021, women made up 47% of the American workforce, but only 30% worked in manufacturing. The discussion began with participants sharing if they see this in their respective workplaces and also why they feel there have been fewer women than men in manufacturing.

Ruby Rusine from Social Success Marketing in California said, “Variety of reasons but the top of the mind: (1) historically, manufacturing jobs have been seen as "men's work," so that has to change. (2) And some work would require one to work odd hours, which is difficult for moms. “

mother-child-laptop-deskHost, Whitney Koch from Welker, Inc. in Texas said, “that's a good point, Ruby. Care tasks typically fall on women, which certainly impacts the types of jobs/industries they work in.”

Felix P. Nater from Nater Associates in North Carolina said, “Totally agreed Ruby. But change is a'coming because workplace conditions are creating opportunities that make women more competitive.”

David Crysler from The Crysler Club in Michigan said, “Yes, unfortunately I see this often. We need to do a better job of telling others, specifically young people and women, the impact that manufacturing has had on our lives.”

Rusine added “In general, not just manufacturing, it’s a nice tagline and marketing blurb. Speaking with other fellow women business owners here. It’s a long journey yet for us women, but we celebrate any break any crack we make in that glass ceiling.”

Julie Basello from Radwell International in New Jersey said, “That we do, my friend”

Nater said “I think it was a condition of workplace factors now changing”

Crysler said “Victims of circumstances when most of the manufacturing positions required manual labor typically reserved for the dudes.”

Gina M. Tabasso from MAGNET in Ohio said, “There are a lot of women at my company. The engineering team is all male, but we got a couple female interns this year! Woot. Why? Seen as a manual labor, hard, dirty job. No recruitment of women. White collar versus blue collar roles.”

Koch replied to Tabasso saying “Alright, that's great, Gina! I agree that there doesn't seem to be emphasis put on recruiting women.

Basello said “I think the perception of manufacturing has often been a dirty, male-dominated environment that wouldn't be a great place for women to work in. Untrue, of course, but perceptions take time to change”

Host Koch replied “So true! Perceptions are hard to overcome until you have some first-hand experience.”

Nater said “That number is what is going to open up the opportunities driven by automation especially because skills typically found in the postsecondary education will create the jobs. Standby!”

Kati McDermith, the Manufacturing Hype Girl in Illinois said, “I think many women are unaware that there is a place for them in the industry.”

To which Rusine replied “That can be one of the reasons, too. There are a lot of misconceptions that need to be corrected.”

Emily Kite from Obsidian Manufacturing Industries, Inc. in Illinois said, “I think like any trade, men were historically seen as the ones who get dirty and work hard manual labor jobs.”

Ingor van Rooi, The Networking Ninja in Canada said, “Manufacturing is a male-dominant industry and I imagine some women don't feel like they belong.”

Dan Bigger from Optessa Inc in New Jersey said, “I don't see it currently, but in prior positions I worked with many women.”

Koch from welker replied “A mixture then. Location and sector could play a part too.”

Bigger replied to Koch saying “It was injection molding and we had women in HR, payroll, front desk, and operators. The same held true when I was in extrusion.”

Kirsten Austin from DCSC Inc. in Missouri chimed in and said “I remember when I was at trade shows etc. and I was even the minority in the Software Industry in my 20's and 30's well a few of us ladies. I've really seen that change a lot. I guess I'm an old trail blazer. I still had fun though!”

Nater added “Yes! mixture of opportunities will certainly open up doors that in the past were the dude's domain. But keep in mind that automation does not require workers to engage in the less attractive manual type jobs”

Neil Hussey from Denco Lubrication in the UK said, “evening all!! Is much less here in the UK. Where I currently work there’s just 1 woman working in the works and probably 20 men. We do have them in the accounts/admin departments but not engineers. More needs to be done to attract them to engineering”

Austin replied “YAY, my UK Brother! I agree and we need to start educating teachers, parents etc. to get young women interested in Science, Technology and Math etc.”

Hussey added “Absolutely, most teachers don’t know what manufacturing is about..there’s robotics, programming, AI is starting to become more prevalent…it’s not just traditional engineering anymore!”

Nater added “Great point if their search is in the postsecondary skills arena, education has a deep reservoir of skills in the fianance, sales, marketing, administration and cybersecurity.”

Austin responded “That is so true Felix! Let me be 100% honest, we love men and women. Filling software jobs with good candidates is NOT easy! I hope some young people or their parents are listening.”

Pavel Stepanov from VirtuDesk said, “Apologies for being late but here we are! Haha. Probably because the "thought" of manufacturing is often associated with men only.”

Jasmine Labelle from velavu in Canada said, “It’s a legacy industry, old school in a lot of ways which includes diversity.”

Host Koch said, “Welker is part of this statistic. We currently have 83 employees, 16 of which are women (19%).”

She continued, “Speaking for myself, manufacturing was not spoken of as a career field growing up, so I was unaware of the opportunities. I feel manufacturing is often perceived as dirty, physical labor. The industry could do better in showing not only how innovative it is, but also how a variety of positions are always needed.”

Ways to Improve Retention

The chat continued with participants sharing what ways manufacturing companies can improve employee recruitment and retention of women and/or in general. Participants shared their thoughts.

Tabasso said, “Get them when they are young in gradeschool and market to the parents to encourage kids to consider alternative careers.”

Koch asked Tabasso, “Do you have any suggestions for Mfg companies looking to do outreach with an elementary school, Gina?”

To which Tabasso replied, “My old company did. We sponsored a robotics team and went to talk to their classes in our community. We hosted a manufacturing day event at our house and invited the schools. We also awarded scholarships. We gamified it and created a coloring book. So much.”

Rusine said, “This could involve things like flexible work hours, on-site childcare, and policies that promote a healthy work-life balance.”

Koch replied, “On-site childcare would be beneficial for families for sure. There's a childcare crisis in America.”

Bigger said, “1 work and it starts with F and ends in lexibilty. Instead of finding ways not to hire someone, finds way to hire them.”

Tabasso said, “Get them when they are young in grade school and market to the parents to encourage kids to consider alternative careers.”

Koch asked, “Do you have any suggestions for Mfg companies looking to do outreach with an elementary school, Gina?”

Tabasso responded, “My old company did. We sponsored a robotics team and went to talk to their classes in our community. We hosted a manufacturing day event at our house and invited the schools. We also awarded scholarships. We gamified it and created a coloring book. So much.”

Kite said, “Showing more High School level students the opportunities of working in manufacturing can offer.”

Koch responded to Kite, “I live it! Do you think that could/should be done from the school side, the manufacturers' side, or both?”

Kite responded, “I think the more information on this to the teens before they decide to get into the job force is best. Manufacturers and schools could do a better job at showing more way to go. My high school I don't feel like did as good of a job.”

Rusine chimed in “Yes! It's really important to start them young so they know that there are a lot of opportunities available for them.”

Michelle Riccetto from Brash Inc said, “Offering flexibility and opportunities for growth!”shutterstock_1951549951

Kosh replied “Flexibility is so important. I think the pandemic really drove people to value that in their jobs.”

Basello said, “Create focused recruitment plans that include women. Also design manufacturing environments that are inviting to everyone who is capable of performing a job”

Hussey said “Do more in schools to attract them to the roles. It’s not just old men in greasy overalls with spanners… “

Labelle said, “Flexibility! Encouraging work life balance is so important.”

Nater added, “There are bountiful employment opportunities for women as they show their skills in positions that are off the work room floor an into significant support positions. desgn, technology, finances, sales, production, cybersecurity and more. Get your resumes updated.”

McDermith said “Make it a safe place to work, free from harassment. Daycares on site are nice! That has shown to limit the number of missed days and allows a mom to focus better on her work.”

Naomi said “Exposure to the younger generation. Maybe through social media and High School programs etc. In my own experience, I never knew what manufacturing was capable of. It is way more fun and creative than people make it out to be!”

Van Rooi said, “By creating a safe space for women, showing them they are welcome (with an inviting environment) and using their current women employees to help recruit people into the company.”

Stepanov said “Consider the pain points of women. Like maternity and motherhood. At the same time, there is strength differences so be mindful of which project or tasks to delegate.”

Tabasso replied “Even huge considerations with perimenopause and menopause. It messes with your head and body

 and temperature and mood and energy and thinking. Some women have horrid pain or migraines with their monthly cycle. Many considerations.”

Koch added in “This is a good point, Gina! Hormonal changes impact women throughout their whole lifetime in significant ways.”

Stepanov said, “This is so true. It's more about understanding how women are different from men.”

Host Koch said, :Manufacturers can’t control the labor market. But by prioritizing what they CAN control, they can create a positive workplace culture that people want to be part of.”

She continued, “3 broad areas in manufacturers’ control are attracting prospects & candidates, training, and engaging employees.”

Modernizing Work Policies

The discussion continued by discussing other things in manufacturers’ control when it comes to employees such as modernizing their work policies to include a lactation policy. Host Koch inquired if companies have a formal lactation policy. Participants shared their insights.

Crysler said, “I've not seen formalized policies but have seen dedicated private spaces to accommodate and encourage this.”

Rusine said, “We don’t have a lactation policy in place, but a team member of mine is a mom, so when her baby frets & cries, we know it’s time for her to tend to her baby & excuse herself fr work. We call her baby her alarm clock. P.S. No, it has not affected her productivity.”

Koch replied, “That's great you're so understanding and inclusive! I think so often women (working moms included) feel they have a lot to prove and therefore don't let something like care-taking detract from their productivity.”

Rusine then said, “That's a sad and bitter reality. Let's keep this information flowing so that companies can act on these needs.”

Bigger said, “Most work from home, so I don't think it is an issue”

Stepanov replied to Bigger saying, “Yes. Same here, Dan.”

Bigger then said, “Good for you Pavel. Keep them remote. It's a huge benefit”

Tabasso chimed in saying, “We are required to go into the office twice per month for all-staff meetings. Remote otherwise for the growth advisors and onsite at clients too like two days next week for me.”

Bigger responded, “That seems fine, but for me I'm nowhere near an office so even hybrid doesn't work. It has to be remote.”

Kite from Obsidian said, “I am unsure about this one, but I can imagine that Obsidian would have something in place if it was needed for the employees.”

Austin said, “Honestly, we have no written policy in place.”

Koch replied, “We did not have a written one either for 57 years”

Tabasso said, “Not that I know of but maybe that is coming with the new building. I will follow up and ask.”

Koch replied, “Good call! I would venture to say yes, as y'all included a lactation room.”

Basello said, “I believe Radwell does have a lactation policy in place. Our HQ is in NJ, and we have a separate lactation room. I think it is a NJ State law that employers have to provide a private room for this that is safe and separate from other spaces (such as restrooms) Not sure about other states or other countries, but I know we create policies that follow appropriate mandates in each area we have locations.”

Koch replied to Basello, “For such a big company, having a policy and dedicated space is a must!”

Naomi added, “Wow, that's super needed!”

To which Basello, replied “It really is. We have a lot of employees and 600 in the HQ building alone.”

Rebecca Prox from Digital Marketing Pro said “Not that I'm aware of. But I haven't looked for it, either. It doesn't apply to me.”

Koch replied saying, “It would likely be in your employee handbook.”

VirtuDexk said, “We don't have a lactation policy because we are working remotely.”

Van Rooi said, “YESSSSSSSS! This Q isn't applicable to me, but I'm here for all of this!!!”

Nater said “Taking a stab at the question. The good thing about the future is that demand will assuredly cause needed change. Women there now or those coming will definitely contribute to proactive thinking on how employers can maximize efficiency by showing sensitivity.”

Riccetto said “We don’t have a formal one in place as of now, but we provide any arrangements for our lovely team as need may be!”

Host Koch said, “Yes! Our legal counsel worked with employment lawyers to update our Employee Guide. In August 2022, Welker was designated as a Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite. This signifies that Welker is “A worksite that actively promotes and supports breastfeeding by its employees and that maintains a written worksite lactation support policy that is regularly communicated to employees” (Texas Administrative Code Title 25 Part 1 Chapter 31 Subchapter A Rule §31.1).”

Policies Supporting Breastfeeding Mothers at Work

The discussion then turned to whether manufacturers are required to provide time and space for breastfeeding mothers at work. Participants shared their thoughts.

Rusine said, “TBH, no idea. Gonna listen to ya’ll on this.”

Bill Garland said, “Yes per the Break Time for Nursing Mothers Law.”

Nater said, “A great opportunity for Human Resources to lead the way in contributing to hospitable friendly workplaces.”

Tabasso said, “Yes by law.”

Basello said, “Space I think yes but I am not sure if this is paid or unpaid and what is required. Are there laws on the books about this?”

Koch replied, “Yes, things get a bit iffy with the time. There are federal laws, and there may also be state laws.”

Kite said, “ If the company expects them to come back after so many weeks of leave, then I think there should be a location mothers can go to breastfeed. If they don't want to provide that then offer longer paid maternity leave.”

Basello replied, “Excellent point, Emily”

Rusine added, “That is an option to be considered.”

Koch replied, “BURN! Emily coming in with the hot take, and I am here for it America needs a paid leave policy.”

Bigger said, “No idea. It's been a long time since I've had to feed kids. THIS IS A JOKE PEOPLE, BUT I HAVE FED MY FAIR SHARE OF KIDS IN MY LIFETIME”

Koch replied, “Always with the jokes But that's fair. A lot has changed in recent years.”

Bigger then said, “Keep in mind that having kids is not just a woman thing. Many men, including myself have been very involved in the raising of my kids. I was up at all hours of the night feeding and changing kids.”

Austin then added, “Men and women both feed their kids. I get it! I also have met men who are the sole caretakers of their kids even in our little community. Companies need to put family first.”

Bigger replied, “Right, while this is predominantly a woman issue it does affect men raising a family as well. There are single dads out there too”

Riccetto said, “I’m not quite sure, but I would hope so! Going to listen to everyone elses responses on this one.”

Prox said, “I do not know this answer.”

Garland said, “Yes per the Break Time for Nursing Mothers Law.”

Naomi from PENCOM in California said, “Want to say they should be required, but probably might not be...”

Van Rooi said, “I have no idea, but I sure do hope so!”

Stepanov said, “By law, they should.”

Nater said “Now is the time for leaders in manufacturing to step up and lead the way. Data supports the interest women have in manufacturing positions is growing, why not get ready. For example, pre-pandemic women ages 55-62 were 8.6% now up to 9.1% indicative of a trend.”

Host Koch said, “Yes and no. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was amended in 2010 to require employers to provide a nursing mother reasonable break time to express breastmilk after the birth of her child and require employers provide a place for an employee to express breastmilk. However, an employer employing less than 50 employees is not subject to this, if these requirements would impose an undue hardship. Keep in mind the FLSA is a federal law and that your state might have different laws.”

Can A Lactation Policy Help Recruiting and Retention?

The discussion wrapped up with participants sharing their thoughts on how having a formal lactation policy might reduce attrition and attract employees.

Basello said, “It would make women feel seen and cared about. When you work in an environment that makes you feel like you matter, you tend to stay and to tell people you know about it”

Austin said, “BOOM so on point!”

Rusine said, “Having a lactation policy shows employees that their company is committed to supporting them as they balance work and motherhood. Doing that creates a positive and happier environment which means better productivity. It promotes loyalty as well.”

Prox said, “Seems obvious, but the better you treat your employees, the more likely they are to stay or be attracted to come work for you.”

Nater replied, “A key factor that contributes to safer, productive workplaces Rebecca.”

Garland said, “The peace of mind from knowing a woman can do what she needs to do for the health and benefit of her children and herself in a supportive environment. It is a very important policy to have and protect.”

Rusine replied, “I couldn't agree more, Bill! Glad you could make it today.”

Koch then said, “It's also a sign of respect and trust, isn't it? Trusting an employee to handle their business and then return to their work.”

Garland said, “It is indeed. Many of my former bosses and employers let people disappear to smoke a cigarette without time limits. We can and should nursing mothers the time and privacy to do what they need to do.”


Koch then said, “So true. We do have a smoking policy and allow people to take smoke breaks... Seems like a no-brainer to allow nursing moms to be able to pump at work.”

Bigger said, “It is a clear sign that the company cares and is willing to find ways to accommodate employees”

Tabasso said, “I am not sure that issue is a deal breaker. I have seen many places without policies or a dedicated room where moms to be join and stay. It is just permission needed. Time and space. Many moms don't breast feed because of the difficulty with working.”

Koch replied “That is true. Breastfeeding is hard and not for everyone for a myriad of reasons. Do you think knowing your employer had a policy and maybe also a lactation room might tip the scales for some moms on the fence about breastfeeding? Asking genuinely.”

Tabasso then said “I don't know. I have never been a mother.”

Labelle said, “Having a lactation policy in place shows that employees are valued and are being supported. Offering flexibility creates a work environment that employees want to be a part of!”

Rusine replied, “Spot on!”

Stepanov said, “It's a way to show consideration and care to nursing mothers.

Koch replied, “Showing someone some consideration is a small act that can go a long way.”

Van Rooi said, ““It would be part of companies making women feel welcome and part of the team; like they belong.”

Naomi said, “We spend most of our time working & with our coworkers. Having a work environment that is flexible/understanding when you have a tiny human will make the biggest difference. Can't dismantle the interconnectedness of family & work”

Host Koch said, “Having a formal lactation policy is a great way to demonstrate you follow FLSA and that you respect and support the personal needs of your employees. This could help potential employees see that there’s a place for them in manufacturing. Knowing your employer is understanding and supportive of life events and changes can give existing employees a sense of pride and loyalty, making them less likely to leave.”


About #USAMfgHour

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