In the 1940s, Rosie the Riveter’s iconic character captured America’s attention when recruiting female workers into manufacturing fields. As men left the labor force en masse to enlist in WWII, women were asked to put traditional gender roles aside to fulfill their patriotic duty — as they were called to work fabricating on the floors of defense industries to aid wartime efforts.
A symbol of working women everywhere during this time, Rosie the Riveter was ubiquitous — appearing in articles, magazine artwork by Norman Rockwell in The Saturday Evening Post, even showing up in several propaganda posters and popular songs (History.com Editors, 2021).
So, what happened to the prominence of promoting women to produce?
According to research from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women only account for 29.5% of manufacturing workers (2020), and the low number of women in the workforce isn’t for lack of openings available.
By 2030, 4.6 million manufacturing jobs are projected to emerge within the industry. However, with baby boomer retirements on the rise, there are only 2.4 million skilled workers qualified for the vacant positions — leaving 2.2 million well-paying manufacturing jobs in limbo. (Bishop Wisecarver, 2020, 02:41-02:55).
Now, as women account for approximately half of the national workforce, they are more than ever being urged to consider manufacturing careers as worthwhile options of opportunity.
Creative careers for Connecticut women
In Connecticut alone, the Department of Labor estimated 161,400 available manufacturing jobs by 2024 (Schmidt, 2017).
“American manufacturing has got to be at the core of what we do,” U.S. Representative Elizabeth Esty declared during an annual Women in Manufacturing Summit. “[Manufacturing] has been the core of Connecticut’s strength for centuries, but it needs to be a part of the future.”
With modern manufacturing no longer the dark, dirty, unsafe assembly lines that many perceive, the myths surrounding the manufacturing field have undergone a significant shift.
Once synonymous with brute strength, the industrial sector has since been replaced with safe, sanitized environments, modern machinery, and accomplished employees with specialized skillsets and advanced, technology-driven careers.
“Manufacturing is about making things, designing things, and getting them to work better,” U.S. Representative Esty reminded female fabricators.
“The problems you address, the approaches you take… [and] identifying potential solutions come from who you are, where you come from, and what you bring to the table, and that [perspective] is different for women” (Schmidt, 2017).
As a way to ease the immense gender disparity in the industry, manufacturers must make an effort to ensure women workers are adequately represented — reminding women that being born to build is not just for the boys and that the world of manufacturing isn’t just for men.
In fact, manufacturing is an expansive field where women can easily find their fit — from analytical brains to creative minds and process-oriented people. A profession of pride and purpose, from perception to prototype to product, manufacturing uses technology to create something tangible, and the state-of-the-art field holds power to make a distinct difference in our everyday lives.
Preparing students for flourishing STEM success
To strengthen the sector and ultimately get more girls and women excited about the endless opportunities in manufacturing, the solution can be found through education — empowering students to craft with curiosity and expand their specialized skillsets.
“Women are significantly underrepresented in the manufacturing industry, and we are committed to changing that dynamic,” Melanie Hoben, Director of Workforce Development at Goodwin University, specified.
To get students interested in professional manufacturing possibilities, the University provides middle and high schoolers the unique chance to earn up to 37 college credits through its Early College Advanced Manufacturing Pathway (ECAMP™) program.
Goodwin’s innovative career-focused institution also offers University students several modern manufacturing prospects. Those enrolled can earn an accelerated certificate in CNC Machining, Metrology, and Manufacturing Technology, as well as certificates in CNC Machining, Mechatronics, and Welding.
Students can also obtain their associate degree in CNC Machining, Quality Management Systems, or their bachelor’s degree in Manufacturing Management.
“Women can do this job, too,” Amanda Sullivan, AS in Quality Management Systems graduate, assured. “I’m constantly doing new things, and, at the end of the day, it’s rewarding to look at all I’ve accomplished.”
“[Manufacturing] is not just for men,” Yesenia Otero, graduate of BS in Manufacturing Management, added. “Women are capable of having physical jobs too…[and] Goodwin prepared me for a position in this field.”
Kiley Russell, a graduate of Goodwin’s accelerated CNC certificate program, also credited Goodwin with her professional success. “This program provided an unbelievable timeline. Nowhere else could I earn a certificate in only six months and come out with a career.”
A Quality Lab Technician’s testimonial
Taylor Perry, a Quality Lab Technician at Goodwin University’s School of Business, Technology, and Advanced Manufacturing, got her introduction to the industry after joining her father at a “bring your daughter to work day.” She later followed in her father’s footsteps and went to school for advanced manufacturing and CNC machining.
“I enjoy looking for new ways to think outside the box and solve problems hands-on,” Taylor explained.
“Usually, when women think about manufacturing, they think about dingy shop floors with heavy machinery, but it’s not like that anymore. The shops here are spotless with high-tech equipment. And, if machining isn’t something you’re interested in, the quality side of manufacturing gives women the chance to work in a lab with high-powered microscopes, and coordinate measurement machines, she clarified.
“In manufacturing, there are many different routes women can take that lead to fulfilling, rewarding careers.”
The sky’s the limit for female learners
Erin Batrna, a 2020 graduate of Goodwin’s CNC machining certificate program, also finds the advanced manufacturing sector professionally satisfying.
“Out of high school, I wasn’t completely sure what I wanted to do with my life,” Erin admitted. “When looking for what I wanted to do next, I knew I always enjoyed creating things, and I knew I wanted a career with great job security.”
Now, Erin has secured a position as a quality inspector for a local aerospace manufacturer. Along with a few of her classmates, Erin was hired for her manufacturing position before she even graduated from Goodwin’s CNC program.
“In the CNC program, I learned the machining side of things, and instructors also educated us on engineering, management, and quality,” Erin described. “Through the courses, I discovered my interest in quality control, specifically inspection. I find it rewarding that I get to inspect and measure parts that go into jet engines and planes!”
“The manufacturing field really surprised me with how fulfilling it can be,” she disclosed.
“I didn’t realize how many doors would open for me, or that there are a variety of interesting jobs with so many ways to grow. I love being a significant step in the creation of parts that help put aircrafts into the air.”
As a young woman using her education from Goodwin as a foundation for flight, “Don’t ever feel out of place,” Erin advised women interested in the manufacturing industry.
“Be confident and believe in yourself. If you can relate to feeling lost when trying to find a career, trust that behind one of these doors, there is an opportunity for you.”
An educator with an early introduction to the industry
Carole Del Vecchio, instructor for Goodwin University’s Welding program, became familiar with manufacturing through her family’s business. Growing up, she watched as her father crafted works of art as a self-taught architect, and she looked on as her grandfather created through carpentry.
“I was exposed to all manners of repair and building and was permitted to participate at a very early age,” Del Vecchio detailed.
“Being allowed to use shop tools before the age of 10 completely cemented my interest in nontraditional hobbies and careers,” she shared.
As she got older, Carole gained further insight into the trades by watching mechanics weld and practice their machining skills for their family’s automotive business. Now restoring muscle cars and Harley-Davidson motorcycles in her spare time, Carole proudly designates engineering a noble calling.
“Starting from a concept and finishing with a completed, functional product is an awesome journey,” Carole enlightened. “Manufacturing is all about making life better for people. It combines old school processes with state-of-the-art technologies, and I enjoy being in an environment where there is no fixed ceiling.”
“In manufacturing, you can use your mind to troubleshoot and problem-solve every day,” she affirmed.
“Women with manufacturing credentials can earn a very comfortable living with incredible benefits in a relatively short amount of time. If you enjoy being challenged, take a long look at the multitude of jobs available,” Carole recommended.
“Manufacturing is an area where women can still be explorers and trailblazers, and the field is waiting for women like you.”
Interested in learning more about Goodwin’s manufacturing programs?
BishopWisecarver. (2020, October 2). Discussing the Myths vs. Realities of Manufacturing by Pamela Kan, President of Bishop-Wisecarver [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vljt9E_udFo
Employed persons by detailed industry, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. (2021, January 22). U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. https://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat18.htm
History.com Editors. (2021, February 9). Rosie the Riveter. HISTORY. https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/rosie-the-riveter
Schmidt, C. (2017, September 15). Hartford Conference Emphasizes Importance of Women in Manufacturing. Hartford Courant. https://www.courant.com/community/hartford/hc-news-women-in-manufacturing-summit-esty-20170915-story.html
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.