Year of Women in Manufacturing



Last year, the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program (NJMEP) celebrated the Year of Women in Manufacturing, in hopes of shedding light on the disparities women face within the manufacturing industry. With the current labor shortage that has had the manufacturing sector reeling in the wake of the Covid-19 Pandemic, it’s important that manufacturers continue to shift focus to a heavily underserved demographic within the industry—women in manufacturing.

We decided to ask the Women Leaders at NJMEP, What was the actualized benefit of the Year of Women in Manufacturing Initiative?

Stephanie Casano, Director
of Compliance and Quality
Control, NJMEP

Stephanie Casano, Director of Compliance and Quality Control at NJMEP, says that women present a unique opportunity for businesses feeling the labor crunch—“Women currently make up 33% of the manufacturing population [and this] initiative is so critically important because we can be more competitive and leverage untapped talent across the labor force.”

Kathleen Baldwin,
Sales Support Manager,

 The Year of Women in Manufacturing was a jumping-off point for driving change for women in the industry, and for Kathleen Baldwin, Sales Support Manager at NJMEP, she says that the Year of Women in Manufacturing Initiative has given women in the industry “a foundation to be heard, recognized, and a chance to encourage the next generation of women manufacturing professionals.”

“Women have just as much to contribute to the manufacturing industry as men do,” says Stacy Cooke, Senior Account Manager at NJMEP, “including their knowledge, talent, innovation, and vision.  Manufacturing has historically been a male-dominated industry—and that needs to shift.”

For Tiana Maynard, Workforce Development Specialist, it’s about recognizing all women in their various roles in the Manufacturing Industry: “As women are stepping into different roles in manufacturing, while also presenting and providing new resources, it’s great to acknowledge that many of these women are central figures. Acknowledging and placing an emphasis on women in this industry is a way to reveal how women have so far assisted in contributing to manufacturing’s innovation and growth.”


The U.S. Census Bureau originally reported that between 2010 to 2020 (when the pandemic hit) the share of women in manufacturing jobs was steadily increasing in every working-age category. It’s now more important than ever to refocus the industry’s efforts and continue the work that started in the previous decade. The outlook so far is favorable for women in manufacturing, with early reports showing that in 2021 9.1% of people entering the manufacturing workforce were women aged 55 to 64, a nearly 6% increase from pre-Covid figures (8.6%). So, it appears the tides are shifting for the better, but progress must not stop there. As it stands, only 1 in 3 manufacturing professionals are women and only 1 in 4 manufacturing leaders are women, and overall, only 30% of women are likely to seek out a career in manufacturing as opposed to their counterpart, who are 16% more likely (46%). 

  • 1 in 3 Manufacturing Employees are Women (33%) 
  • 1 in 4 Manufacturing Leaders are Women (24%) 
  • Only 30% of Women are likely to seek out a manufacturing career 
  • 75% of women in manufacturing roles recommend a career in manufacturing 
Stacy Cooke,
Senior Account Manager,

“In 2022, women earned an average of only 82% of what men earned. We need to continue to move that dial,” Stacy Cooke weighed in. Manufacturing is a perfect industry to close this gap with the average annual compensation for a full-time manufacturing professional in New Jersey being over $97,000.

Change for equality has historically been slow, not only in manufacturing but in all areas of society. For Kathleen Baldwin, this initiative is helping to expedite the process: “With continued emphasis on women in manufacturing the Year of Women in Manufacturing has been a part of the change in that female employment in the industry reached its height in 2022, with a total of 3.77 million workers, and women now account for 33% of the manufacturing workforce.  These numbers will continue to grow in 2023 with NJMEP’s continued emphasis on women in the manufacturing industry.”


Attracting women to manufacturing careers continues to prove problematic for businesses. In a recent survey conducted by Thomas in association with Women in Manufacturing (WIM), 44% of Women say leadership/management training had the most significant impact on their manufacturing career advancement, and a further 35% reported that Mentorships impacted them.  

In a recent Department of Labor Manufacturing Listening Session, hosted by the DOL and NJMEP, similar concerns were voiced by Women in Manufacturing Industry Leaders like Casey Bickhardt, Owner of GEMCO, and Ellen Pietrowitz-Phillips, President of L-E-M Plastics & Supplies, Inc. They both expressed concerns about a need for grants or subsidies that are tailored to administering Leadership Training and upskilling for their employees. As Women Leaders in the Manufacturing Industry, they can appreciate the importance of leadership training and mentorship firsthand.

Laura Fisher, Human
Resources Manager,

From an operational standpoint, Laura Fisher, Human Resources Manager at NJMEP adds her own personal insight: “The manufacturing sector is so important to our country, and it is important to recruit new talent into these positions. NJMEP’s Year of Women in Manufacturing effort has done an excellent job focusing on opening doors for people who may not have thought of working in manufacturing as a possibility.”

“More and more women are taking key roles in manufacturing to pave the way for others to follow suit,” says Stacy Cooke. “Shining a light on those women who have worked hard and proven successful will motivate other companies to push for more gender inclusivity in manufacturing and leadership roles.”

Kathleen Baldwin, builds on this idea by saying “Women have played an increasingly important role in the manufacturing sector, contributing to its growth, innovation, and sustainability,” she continues, “It is especially true today as more women are taking on leadership roles, creating new products and services, and becoming key figures in the industry.”

The Thomas and WIM study also reported that only 20% of manufacturers offer leadership training and only 13% offer mentorship programs—so without the proper programs being offered by the industry, we may see a stagnation in women leadership numbers. “We have a long way to go but more companies seem to be on board with this transformation to ensure that we’re making strides towards equality,” echoes Stacy Cooke, who as an Account Manager works firsthand with NJMEP clients on many projects that include workforce development.


Laura Fisher, who is responsible for hiring and managing on-boarding at NJMEP, pulls her personal experience from an Operational standpoint and says that, “the most substantial milestone achieved during the Year of Women in Manufacturing was an increased focus on underrepresented and underserved groups in the industry.” An area that NJMEP will continue supporting in 2023 as the organization focuses on the formation of Initiatives like the New Jersey Defense Community Consortium (NJDMCC), which offers career opportunities to Veterans and their families—7.9% of which are female veterans in New Jersey.

From a social standpoint, Stephanie Casano says that for her, “One of the greatest results of [NJMEP’s] efforts was the sisterhood created from the Year of Women in Manufacturing—these relationships are priceless . . . because they were founded on the importance of empowerment and support, as well as increasing awareness for women to choose manufacturing as a career!” One area that should be of note, and that supports Stephanie’s sentiment, is that manufacturers should consider getting involved in programs like FIRST Robotics—a nationwide robotics competition that brings together younger men and women and gives them the skills to pursue higher level careers in robotics. According to the US Census Bureau, one of the ways the industry has been attracting more women and reducing the gender gap was by changing the perception of women in manufacturing and encouraging girls at a young age to pursue STEM subjects—and FIRST is the perfect vehicle for that introduction to middle-school and high school-aged girls.

The Year of Women in Manufacturing Initiative, which culminated in 2022 at the 10th Annual ‘MADE in New Jersey’ Manufacturing Day Event where outstanding Women Leadership was recognized with a series of awards. The intent was to highlight the industry’s most prominent Women Leaders. The first ever Year of Women in Manufacturing Scholarship was awarded to Micaela Alvarez, Director of Operations at Universal Nutrition—who is using the scholarship to further her education in the prestigious Executive Education Program at MIT’s Sloan School of Management—and secondly, Ellen Pietrowitz-Phillips, President of L-E-M Plastics & Supplies, Inc. was awarded the first ever Rising Star Award, which was awarded for standout leadership in the industry. These were both awards that, in Kathleen Baldwin’s opinion, “highlighted their value to New Jersey’s manufacturing industry and women in manufacturing [as a whole]”—as symbolic a gesture as literal. “Recognizing women in this industry now, is not only the start of encouragement for other women, but also only a taste of what the next generation of women can bring forward to continue manufacturing’s success,” says Tiana Maynard—a message NJMEP is proud to carry forward as the legacy of the Year of Women in Manufacturing.


Be sure to subscribe to NJMEP’s Manufacturing Matters magazine and stay up-to-date with the latest manufacturing news, industry developments, and events like State-of-the-State taking place on May 4th. NJMEP’s State-of-the-State of Manufacturing Summit brings together manufacturers, STEM Firm executives, and NJ elected officials in order to highlight and discuss industry-critical challenges within the manufacturing sector. Be there and be heard, May 4th!

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