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Bringing More Women Into Manufacturing

By: Adrienne Selko, Industry Week

Nikki Wilson has traveled the globe honing her skills. For the past 20 years, she has been involved in human resource strategies and while at General Motors, she drove global best practices in Bangalore, Dubai and Korea. And she’s taking these lessons with her to her new job as chief talent and culture officer at Richards Group, which helps companies build brands.

Ensuring that manufacturing companies have a strong brand is important when it comes to both recruiting and retaining women. In a recent study, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, from McKinsey, of global job seekers, 39% have turned down or decided not to pursue a job opportunity because of a perceived lack of inclusion.

“This is an important statistic,” says Wilson. “It clearly demonstrates that there is room for continuous improvement in the selection process if potential candidates won’t join a company due to lack of inclusion.”

Current employees value inclusion as well. The survey found that 47% are more likely to stay with their company when they perceive it to be inclusive.

Financial Consequences

There is a direct financial correlation to diverse companies. Ethnically diverse companies are 36% more likely to outperform less diverse organizations, the study concluded.

With regard to gender, those companies that are gender diverse are 25% more likely to outperform less diverse companies. “As an industry, we need to be focused and intentional on bringing in more women to the field, and we can do that first by casting as wide a net as possible to attract talent,” explains Wilson. “Talented women are out there, but if companies keep using the same sourcing they will miss out.”

In attracting this talent, companies need to understand that how women want to work has changed. This came to light during the pandemic as many chose to leave the workforce. “Companies had to pivot during the pandemic, and that pivot is here to stay. So, bringing women back employers need to emphasize flexible and hybrid working schedules, looking at the specific needs of the potential employees. We need to listen to our female employees and understand how we can help them achieve and thrive both at work and at home,” says Wilson. And there are also women who had stepped out of the workforce prior to the pandemic and want to return. There are many organizations that help support women in returning to the workforce and companies should seek partnerships with these organizations, Wilson says.

Nikki Wilson, chief talent and culture officer at Richards Group

In addition to flexible working arrangements, women, especially younger women, want to be sure they see other women in the company across a variety of roles. They also want to see a clear path of progression. “Everyone wants to have a great experience in the workplace while learning and growing in their roles,” Wilson says. “I think now there are a number of processes and practices in place that can facilitate this growth.”

Next Generation of Workers

Wilson has advice for companies specific to attracting that next generation. “While women have advanced at many companies, I still hear women say that they don’t have a seat at the table. Or if they do their voices aren’t heard in the same manner as men. We need to fix this as this generation is just not having it. They will not choose to go to a company that has this attitude.”

Wilson notes that given we are in an age of employee activism and people are seeking to work for companies that align with their values, companies need to demonstrate they are inclusive. “People are very choosy and not only do they want to get invited to the dance, but they also want to belong,” Wilson notes.

To women, she advises them to stretch further in their goals. When you hear about an opportunity for growth or advancement, raise your hand, she says. “Remember the company hired you because they saw something in you, so be confident and shine. Show up, speak up and speak out.”


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