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4 www.bus-ex.com May 08

May 08 www.bus-ex.com 5 also shows that the number of femaleowned manufacturing companies has nearly doubled in the past decade. These companies grew by 38 percent over a seven year period, while the sector as a whole grew by eight percent during the same time frame. NAM estimates that women now own 19 percent of all manufacturing firms with employees. The perception of women in manufacturing has changed as a result. Employers now recognize that women are particularly willing to embrace change and innovation, and learn new skills, as well as being strong communicators. Some suggest that women’s abilities in these areas have been honed by their experience in managing, listening and ‘getting things done’—skills they have developed by multi-tasking their way through the challenges of school, family, and work. Kellie Johnson, president of ACE Clearwater Enterprise, a Torrance, California-based aerospace component manufacturer, notes this phenomenon. “Because there have always been more men in manufacturing than women, women have developed better communication skills,” she says, “since we have had to learn, over time, how to talk to men to navigate throughout the workday. Women have this ‘laser-like’ ability to get right to the heart of the matter, with the precision of a surgeon’s knife, and get the job done.” Since women have always had to juggle work and family responsibilities, less time is wasted on long meetings and non-productive work events, an approach that is synchronistic to a lean manufacturing environment which eliminates wasteful tasks. Johnson comments that women are a growing and important part of her company’s workforce, and that women fill all of the company’s key positions. “Women seem to be much more receptive to training,” she says, “not quite as defensive as men in feeling that they already know everything. A While lean manufacturing and continuous improvement initiatives get all the headlines, the emergence of women into management is equally important in changing the face of manufacturing, says Thomas R. Cutler Operationalexcellence With the exception of World War II, the topic of “women in manufacturing” would be a short discussion. Manufacturing has always been a male dominated environment, but over the past decade women have made significant entry into the sector. From the factory floor to the boardroom, more women are finding gainful employment in manufacturing, and their presence is changing how business is conducted. Despite reports of massive layoffs in the manufacturing sector, there is still a skills shortage. According to the Skills Gap Report by the National Association of Manufacturers’ (NAM) Manufacturing Institute, more than 80 percent of manufacturers surveyed experience an overall shortage of qualified workers. Women in Manufacturing—A Booklet of Best Practices, published by the NAM, notes that at many large manufacturing companies, it is not unusual to find half the production employees to be women. NAM data gendercard The