High tech jobs are the future of manufacturing. Cities around the country are bringing back manufacturing jobs to a skilled technology base in the states. With a large number of industries that have a high concentration in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math), the sector employed nearly 17 million in 2014. High tech manufacturing is a unique branch in general manufacturing. Using sophisticated tools in research and development, these ‘advanced industries’ require skilled workers.
There is a problem facing high tech manufacturing and that is the number of skilled labor that is needed. According to Manufacturing Insights, there will be an estimated 2 million-worker shortage over the next decade and women currently make up less than one-third (29%) of the American manufacturing workforce. Leaders in manufacturing believe that engaging with future female talent is fundamental and are seeking ways to attract talent. To move the industry ahead, executives are seeking changes, including creating a culture within their companies — such as sharing increased visibility of female leaders, update manufacturing perceptions and identify the gaps balance between work and home.
To learn more about women in high tech manufacturing I spoke to Kimberly Clavin. With a masters in Mechanical Engineering, Kimberly has worked in various industries and followed her passion by working in the arena of Internet of Things, Embedded Systems, Wearables and Digital Experience.
What is your background in manufacturing?
Currently, I do research and strategy around digital manufacturing as a part of my position. The focus is on using sensors to provide data for predictive analytics on machine health. The bigger picture is practice Design for Connectivity which includes manufacturing considerations early in product design. In the past, I designed assembly lines for a food processing manufacturer. I was an elite triathlete vegetarian designing a processed meat line that would take stacked and ready-to-go meat and place it into the final packaging. To tell you the truth, it didn’t scare me off! I now eat meat without hesitation.
What challenges have you run into as a woman in a male-dominated field?
I wouldn’t call it a challenge, I would call it an opportunity. Working in a male-dominated field, I have the opportunity to build confidence while learning the art of communication and negotiation. I am a big advocate of having a male ally. For years, I resisted this approach as I didn’t feel I should need one; I should just be heard and respected without the need of a male helping me. In the end, I do find it very useful. I can learn from my male ally on communication methods that are effective, similar to reading and applying the message in the book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Understanding and applying methods to communicate with each other is key. Meanwhile, it is important to always keep aware of any unconscious biases. Note the word, “unconscious.” The person may not realize what they are doing offends you. Approaching the person in an expert, personal and direct manner can lead to positive results.
Some feel there is a lack of opportunity in the high tech manufacturing sectors for women. What’s your opinion?
If people say there is a lack of opportunity, then that is actually a window of possibilities.
Yes, I am the type that loves a good challenge. There is a WORLD of potential for women in this sector. We don’t see many women migrating to the manufacturing space mostly due to a lack of awareness. Manufacturers, and all those involved, have had open arms when speaking with me. I feel wanted and welcome in all aspects of the career. Of course, there are specific individuals that may benefit from awareness of what women can bring to the table. For the most part, there are individuals that would go out of their way to help shepherd and guide women into manufacturing as they see the benefit of various perspectives and the incredible need for good talent.
If you would like to learn more about women in manufacturing visit https://www.womeninmanufacturing.org/home/. This national association is dedicated to supporting, promoting and inspiring women who are pursuing or have chosen a career in the manufacturing industry.