2019, Volume 4, Issue 1 - Summer 2019

Women in Manufacturing: Is your team as welcoming as you think?

Opening the door for more helps you unlock hidden potential in your organization

By Carrie Schroeder

Awhile back as I walked into a large meeting, I was greeted by one of my male colleagues who said, “I think I now know how you feel.” I was confused at first then quickly realized the comment was referring to the gender imbalance in the room. It brought a smile to my face.

You see, throughout my career in manufacturing, I have often been the only woman in the meeting room. This time the table was turned, this was our first Women in Manufacturing (WIM) meeting in Manitoba, and the women outnumbered the men. This was an unusual situation for my male colleague to experience!

Don’t get me wrong; I wish there would have been more men in the room that day, because we need to engage men as well as women in the WIM initiative to build a strong ecosystem of change. One of the biggest challenges facing women in manufacturing is the male-centric work culture.

Experience and point of view matters

In the summary report, Untapped Potential: Attracting and Engaging Women in Canadian Manufacturing, close to half the women surveyed felt they need to work harder than men to prove themselves. Although only a small number of men completed the survey, the vast majority believed that there was no workplace discrimination between the sexes. The fact that men do not see a problem, is part of the problem. Women need their male colleagues to understand their concerns and be part of the solution.

I believe there is a strong business case for gender inclusivity and diversity. There have been a multitude of studies that show workplaces with diverse teams achieve higher results and greater innovation. The Peterson Institute for International Economics conducted a global survey of nearly 22,000 companies from 91 countries, and results show organizations with women in at least 30 per cent
of leadership positions improved profits by six percentage points over competitors with fewer or no women
in leadership.

In order to promote women to positions of leadership in manufacturing, we must first get them to enter our doors; we need to create an environment that is welcoming and embraces everyone’s differences. To build an inclusive culture, we must acknowledge the biases that exist, but quite often we are not even aware we have these biases. These unconscious biases exist in all of us.

We’re all biased

I am the first to admit I am biased. I have been involved in manufacturing for over 30 years and, through this time, I believe I have adjusted to working in a male-centric environment. Instead of challenging the norms, I have found myself adapting to them.

I have seen the irony in being promoted to a position of higher responsibility yet having my male reports being compensated at a higher level. I have been told I did not need a raise because I had a husband who was the bread winner. I have used my sense of humor to cope with times when I have been asked by customers if they could talk to one of the guys because he had a technical question. I took great pleasure in transferring those calls to a male colleague who had very little technical knowledge of the product we manufactured and would have a fit of giggles when he transferred the call back to me. When I was told by a customer that I would need big balls to lead our sales department my response to him was ‘I had nothing to lose!’

Be the change

Through this time, I realized the decision was mine: I could continue with a career that provided challenges but also immense opportunities for growth, or I could restart my career in an area other than manufacturing. To continue to do the work I loved I had to adjust the person I was at work, I had to compromise being authentic.

Reflecting on my experience I truly want to make a difference for those young women entering careers in manufacturing. As my awareness has grown, I have taken an honest look at myself and admit I need to change my antiquated perceptions and attitude in order to be the change I want to be a part of – an authentic change.

You know the saying “It takes a village”? Well, this change of the manufacturing ecosystem is going to take all of us in every sector of manufacturing to work together to attract the talent we need to grow manufacturing on the Prairies and throughout all of Canada.

There’s a tool for that

To get everyone in the manufacturing sector involved to help make manufacturing more gender inclusive, CME’s national WIM initiative has created a Gender Inclusion and Diversity toolkit. The toolkit is open source and provides a suite of practical tools that will help you and your organization address the inclusivity and diversity challenge in bite-size chunks. And help you do it in a meaningful way. The great part of the toolkit is you can choose the tools that work best for you and your organization and work them in a way that is best for your individual situation.

The change can happen; it is happening. Now let’s come together as a strong community – a strong village – to make a difference for the women in manufacturing and for the young women we need to attract to careers in manufacturing.

Your organization is only as valuable as the talent it attracts and retains. When we actively create and cultivate a culture of inclusion we will attract, retain, and continue to build the workforce we need to continue to grow our businesses, to continue to grow the manufacturing sector.

Learn more

To learn more and to pledge your support for the Women in Manufacturing initiative and to access the toolkit, visit womeninmanufacturing.ca.

Carrie Schroeder is the Director of Operations for Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) in Manitoba, and is one of the driving forces behind CME’s Women in Manufacturing initiative. To learn more, visit http://www.womeninmanufacturing.ca.

Your commitment to diversity starts with your job postings and descriptions

Potential candidates are reading between the lines of job postings and position descriptions to determine if your corporate culture is a fit for them. How is your message being received?

Manufacturing and technology have traditionally been male-dominated, while careers in people services, including education and nursing, have tended to be female-dominated. If you’re looking to attract under-represented candidates to your company, you’ll have to be extra diligent in writing your job postings.

First impressions

The job posting is often a first impression of your company, and it starts to immediately communicate your organization’s values.

Including more ‘neutral’ descriptors like “excellence,” “understanding,” or “premier” are subtle but impactful ways to be more inclusive in your search for employees and helps potential candidates see themselves in the job.

The language you use

The words used in your job posting make a difference. “Fast-paced environment,” “driven,” and “disciplined” tend to attract predominantly male candidates; “build lasting relationships,” “passion for learning,” and “fostering” tend to attract more female candidates. The inclusion of those words can even deter the very people you’re trying to attract from applying at all.

Express your commitment

Candidates want to know they’ll be welcome in your culture before they make the effort to apply. A statement at the end of your job description that showcases additional benefits such as flex time, parental leave or mentorship programs can go a long way in reinforcing your company’s commitment to diversity.

Rhae Redekop

Executive Recruitment Consultant,
Engineering & Technical, 


Join the movement.

Be a part of the Women in Manufacturing initiative by celebrating the important role women play in advancing the industry, and by championing inclusion and diversity in your own workplace.

Prairie Manufacturer Magazine is committed to doing its part. In each of the next two issues, you will find a featured column or article shining a spotlight on that very topic:

Fall 2019: Enough talk — let’s get this done

Winter 2019: Harnessing the power of influencers

To learn more, or to become involved, contact