November 28, 2018
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Naomi Parker Fraley—the real-life inspiration for the iconic “Rosie the Riveter”—passed away on Jan. 20, 2018, at the age of 96. Virtually at the same time, her legacy was in the process of being revived. Her likeness on the famous 1943 “We Can Do It” poster galvanized women to go into the formerly male-only province of manufacturing to help the war effort by filling positions vacated by men enlisting in the armed forces. Naomi and her alter ego, Rosie, personified American ingenuity that countered the ingrained cultural norm. But this was seen as temporary—returning soldiers assumed most of the women’s positions at war’s end and the old cultural norm reasserted itself. 

Today, women still represent less than 30 percent of manufacturing employees, although they comprise 47.5 percent of the total workforce. But change is in the wind again due to a new sense of urgency to involve women in manufacturing, this time at the foundations of workplace culture. 

Manufacturing in America is facing a new challenge. Rapid technological advances and the convergence of physical and digital manufacturing are helping change the way manufacturers operate and raising the bar for required employee skill sets. 

As discussed in the January issue of Window & Door, the resulting skills gap means that six out of 10 positions are currently unfilled, which translates to some two million manufacturing jobs that may go begging over the next decade. Yet, at least one critical element that can aid in closing the gap remains largely untapped: women. The challenge is how. Read More