The skilled workforce shortage is nothing new to those in manufacturing.

However, one obvious solution has been seeminly ignored by those affected by the problem, researchers say.

Women.

In a recent report by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute called “Untapped resource: How manufacturers can attract, retain and advance talented women,” they identify women as a potential source for funneling new bodies into the manufacturing worker pipeline.

Women, who make up roughly half of the U.S. labor force, only represent 25% of the durable goods manufacturing employment base, according to Catalyst Research. That means there’s a pool of untapped talent with XX chromosomes.

“In addition to bridging the skills gap, hiring and advancing women is smart business,” the report says. “As consumers and influencers, their experiences and insights could contribute significantly to the industry’s competitiveness.”

Women in Manufacturing

The No. 1 reason women remain underrepresented in industry is the perception of gender bias, the report says. Of the more than 600 women working in manufacturing surveyed for the report, 51% said there is a perception of a male-favored culture.

“Manufacturers must have women to attract women, and must have women in executive roles to retain the women in their companies,” one participant said.

Of those women with manufacturing careers, 75% find it an interesting and rewarding line of work and would take a job in manufacturing if they were to start just now starting their careers, the report said.

The trick it seems is in convincing women to enter the field.

Six Steps to Attracting Women

  1. Start at the Top -- Cultural change needs to begin in the C-suite.
  2. Address Gender Bias Head on -- Complete targeted awareness training to uncover implicit bias.
  3. Create a More Flexible Work Environment -- Shift from a presence-driven culture to a results-driven culture.
  4. Foster Sponsorship -- Support sponsorship as a way to help women advance to leadership positions.
  5. Promote Personal Development -- Customized learning and development can aid in retention efforts.
  6. Build a Strong Employer Brand -- Involve female leaders in recruitment.

Click here to read the complete survey, which was conducted June 25 to July 31, 2012.