MILWAUKEE — Camry Simon
didn't know anything about manufacturing when she signed
up for a free 10-week program learning to make metal
parts. To her surprise, she loved it.
"You're creating artwork in a sense. You're taking a
piece of metal and turning it into something," said the
24-year-old mother, who is now earning an associate's
degree and a journeyman's license in Wisconsin in hopes
of working in the manufacturing industry. "To me, that
means there's a wide range of ways I could go."
Some companies in need of welders, machinists and other
skilled workers are now targeting women, who account for
nearly half of the U.S. workforce but hold less than a
third of the nation's 12.2 million manufacturing jobs,
according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Harley-Davidson is among them. The Milwaukee-based
company is recruiting women through job fairs,
professional organizations and schools as part of its
effort to hire more women, minorities and young adults,
said Tonit Calaway, Harley's vice president of human
"We know we want to sell to those customers, so we
should look like the people we want to sell to," Calaway
said. She noted that 21 percent of the company's global
manufacturing workers are female.
Women's share of manufacturing jobs peaked in the early
1990s, and remained mostly unchanged until the
recession. Since the recession ended in June 2009, men
regained more than 500,000 jobs, while women lost
another 52,000, according to a report from the National
Women's Law Center in Washington.
The reasoning for the discrepancy is unclear, but
analyst Katherine Gallagher Robbins, who wrote the
report, said she believes companies "are not doing the
outreach to get to the women out there." Few
manufacturing jobs now require workers to lift more than
35 pounds, and Robbins noted that such jobs often pay
$20 or more per hour, compared to an average $12 hourly
wage in the female-dominated travel and hospitality
A separate August survey done for Women in
Manufacturing, a nonprofit industry group, found that
women ages 17 to 24 tended to see the industry as
male-dominated and dull.
That's a perception Terry Blumenthal is trying to
Blumenthal speaks at high schools near the Rockwell
Automation plant she manages in Ladysmith, Wisconsin.
She was 15 when she began working part-time at the
company, which makes starters, relays, tower lights and
other products. When she finished college, she was
offered a job on the shop floor — and found her calling.
"Everybody thinks of it as the place where you get
dirty, you have to be very mechanical," the 48-year-old
said. "But that's not it. ... There's good money,
there's great growth opportunity, and anybody can do