I have been in manufacturing now for nearly 24 years after serving 11 years active duty in the U.S. Army. Having worked in male dominated career fields it has been very rare for me to have female direct reports. I have not in practice tried to isolate women due to unique challenges because we live in a modern society now so we can't really say that only women care for children or that only women may be single parents raising children on their own. I have tried to look at each issue/challenge and neutralize it from being a gender specific problem because I think there is a danger in creating a perception that hiring and retaining women creates additional "demands" on the company. For example, I did have a female employee with an ongoing medical issue (severe menstrual cramps due to endometriosis) and we were able to accommodate her by having her apply for intermittent FMLA. This would be no different than a male who suffers from a chronic medical issue (back or fibromyalgia, etc). In the instances where I have personally been confronted with issues based on my gender I have always overcome them by using objective logic and focusing attention on the work at hand or my ability to produce results rather than allow the situation to erode into emotion. In my opinion, child care is not a women's issue, it is a parental guardian issue that transcends gender; we have grandparents raising children now, single parents, dual working parents, etc. I think it is definitely advantageous for on-site child care but it is not a common benefit among companies across the board, not just manufacturing. There are many career fields that work shifts and odd hours; while manufacturing has some work to do to update our image, we are certainly not the only career field that faces these challenges. I think it would be interesting to benchmark these other career fields (fire fighters, medical profession, first responders, air traffic controllers, etc) to determine how they are meeting these challenges to recruit and maintain an diverse workforce.
Chief Engineer Advanced Manufacturing
You cannot always choose your circumstances, but you can always choose your attitude!