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Women in Manufacturing and Supply Chain


Friday April 21, 2017

This week, we celebrate APICS’s third year as a cosponsor of the STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Ahead Awards, which recognize women in manufacturing who exemplify leadership within their companies. Last night, during an inspiring reception and gala, 100 honorees and 30 emerging leaders were recognized as the best-of-the-best women in manufacturing. Supply chain was well represented in those ranks, with 12 APICS members among those acknowledged.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up about half of the labor force, but they occupy only 29 percent of manufacturing jobs in the nation. Put simply, this means that manufacturers are missing a critical talent pool that could help them fill vital jobs. In fact, Deloitte predicts that the cumulative manufacturing skills gap — or the number of positions that cannot be filled because of a lack of skilled workers — will grow to 2 million positions by 2025. Women will play a key role in helping to fill this gap.

As part of our efforts to encourage more women to consider jobs in manufacturing and supply chain, APICS reinforced its partnership with The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte to release “Women in Manufacturing: Stepping up to make an impact that matters.” This study is a result of more than 600 survey responses from women in all aspects of manufacturing, including supply chain, and almost 20 manufacturing executive interviews. Key highlights from the study include the following:

  • Nearly three-fourths (70 percent) of women indicate they would stay in manufacturing if they were to start their careers today.
  • Respondents said that some of the most important employment characteristics include opportunities for challenging and interesting assignments, attractive pay, and work-life balance.
  • The most impactful initiatives for helping retain women in manufacturing include formal and informal mentorship programs, flexible work practices, and increasing visibility of key leaders who serve as role models.
“Unleashing the potential of women in manufacturing can reap big rewards,” says Trina Huelsman, co-author of the research and vice chairman, U.S. Industrial Products & Services Leader, at Deloitte & Touche. “Organizations that make recruitment, retention and advancement of women a strategic priority can bring diverse decision making perspectives, drive innovative and creative solutions and can achieve overall better business performance.” 

The Manufacturing Institute launched the STEP Ahead program in 2012 to promote the role of women in manufacturing through mentoring, recognition, research and leadership. Deloitte and APICS also are part of this important endeavor. 

The 2017 study also examines the positive influences of this program in raising the visibility of opportunities for women in the industry. Former STEP Ahead honorees and emerging leaders have connected with an estimated 300,000 individuals — including industry peers and school-age children — to share this important message. In fact, 92 percent of this group is engaged in efforts that promote the development of women, and 70 percent are engaged with K-12 students to encourage boys and girls to consider careers in manufacturing. 

“Women in Manufacturing: Stepping up to make an impact that matters” is an important part of understanding how we as an industry can make supply chain careers more attractive to women. At APICS, we are dedicated to workforce development initiatives that address the supply chain talent gap. Ensuring more women join the manufacturing workforce and find a path to success is a key part of the solution. To read the full report, visit

In addition, APICS recently launched the Supply Chain STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Educational Outreach Program to teach K-12 students about the exciting possibilities offered through supply chain careers. Along with our partners, APICS has created three activities, each tailored to a specific age range. Volunteers and teachers lead students in these activities to introduce them to supply chain in a fun and exciting way. Our goal is to reach 100,000 students through 2020, and we need your help to make this happen. Visit our new Supply Chain STEM Educational Outreach Program website at to learn more about the program, donate or volunteer today.
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  1. Jennifer Proctor April 24, 2017, 01:13 PM
    Thanks for your comments, Abi. APICS is dedicated to giving supply chain professionals--male or female--the tools they need to succeed in this exciting career. I'm going to make sure our certification and professional development departments see your comments in order that they may be considered moving forward. Thank you for reaching out.
  2. Abi Martin April 24, 2017, 03:40 AM

    A good article however I find the APICS course content does not reflect the drive for more women in the manufacturing and Supply Chain workforce. I have been completing the CPIM over the past year and a half and throughout all 5 modules ALL positions, whether it be customer, supplier, planner, manager are then referred to as 'he'. There was also a comment about rewarding employees in which it suggested that the team "and their WIVES" could be taken out for dinner as a treat.

    These kind of comments do not suggest to me that women are considered to have an equal position in the workforce!!! I know the CPIM course structure is currently under review but the course books should be reviewed regularly. In this day and age I would expect learning coursework to be more inclusive and should not suggest that women are rewarded as part of their husband's merit!

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