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Top 5 leadership skills for women in manufacturing


The landscape of US manufacturing leadership is evolving, with women making strides in the sector employing 12.1 million people, according to U.S. Census Bureau. While women now constitute 30% of the manufacturing workforce, the industry still lags behind others in gender representation. 

In this dynamic environment, Madam C.J. Walker emerges as a symbol of inspiration. As one of the first African American female millionaires, her journey from a washerwoman born into the shadows of slavery to a pioneering business magnate exemplifies resilience and visionary leadership. 

Women leaders must draw inspiration from Walker’s entrepreneurial spirit. This involves investing in leadership development programs and incorporating adaptive learning. As the industry transforms, these skills not only foster personal growth but also strategically contribute to enterprise success, underscoring the pivotal role of continuous education

Women leaders must draw inspiration from Walker's entrepreneurial spirit

Thriving in manufacturing: 5 key leadership skills for women 

5 key leadership skill | AntWalk
  1. Technological proficiency: Need of the hour
    Modern manufacturing is deeply intertwined with technology. According to a report by McKinsey, since 2002, the demand for technological skills has steadily increased, with an anticipated surge between 2016 and 2030. Women leaders must embrace digital proficiency, understanding core technologies, their applications, and emerging trends. 

    Mastering technology empowers leaders to optimize production, leveraging data-driven insights for streamlined processes and enhanced decision-making. Fostering an innovative culture allows them to champion new technologies, develop cutting-edge products, and stay ahead of the curve, positioning their organizations for success in the evolving landscape of manufacturing where adaptability and strategic technology adoption are paramount. 
  2. Strategic thinking and Innovation: Pioneering change 
    Strategic thinking is vital in manufacturing, with 97% of senior leaders deeming it crucial for organizational success. Women leaders must adeptly analyze trends, anticipate challenges, and develop sustainable growth strategies. Fostering an innovation culture is equally critical in today’s competitive market. 

    By honing these skills, women leaders craft resilient business models, navigate economic fluctuations, and manage disruptions. They drive product development by championing innovative design, meeting evolving customer needs. Cultivating a culture encouraging experimentation enables effective continuous improvement. This strategic approach, underlined by leadership importance, positions women leaders to steer manufacturing enterprises successfully. 
  3. Adaptability and Resilience: Mastering change, surpassing challenges
    In the manufacturing sector, leaders, especially women, must embody adaptability and resilience considering that they make up for only 30% of the manufacturing workforce. These skills are essential for navigating challenges, overcoming setbacks, and maintaining stability amid rapid industry evolution. 

    Adaptability goes beyond embracing change, it involves strategically adjusting strategies to shifting market dynamics. Women leaders who embrace adaptability guide teams through transitions, fostering agility for operational continuity and long-term success. 

    Resilience is equally crucial, enabling leaders to bounce back and turn failures into learning opportunities, inspiring teams to persevere and innovate. Women should exemplify resilience, transforming obstacles into steppingstones for growth. Simultaneously, it’s imperative for men within the industry to actively support and ensure that women have the resources and environment conducive to showcasing their resilience and adaptability.
  4. Inclusive leadership: Shaping a diverse future 
    In the manufacturing sector, inclusivity isn’t just a leadership trait; it’s a strategic necessity. Women leaders play a pivotal role in crafting diverse work environments, fueling innovation, fostering collaboration, and nurturing a culture benefiting both internal teams and external partnerships.

    A McKinsey & Company report found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to achieve above-average profitability, underlining the link between inclusive leadership and financial success. 

    Inclusive leadership recognizes diverse perspectives, fulfilling social responsibility and amplifying creativity, crucial in manufacturing. Establishing an inclusive culture ensures equal opportunities for growth. Women leaders advocating for mentorship, networking, and educational initiatives bridge gender gaps, ensuring a robust talent pipeline.  
  5. Effective decision-making: Navigating success’s course 
    A McKinsey Global Survey showed that only 20 percent of the respondents believed that their organizations excel at decision making. Further, a majority said much of the time they devote to decision making is used ineffectively.

    In manufacturing leadership, effective decision-making is pivotal, especially for women leaders. Timely and informed decisions, aligned with leadership goals, are crucial for optimizing processes, strategies, and partnerships. This skill empowers women leaders to guide teams through challenges, capitalize on opportunities, and maintain business agility in a dynamic industry.

    Key to effective decision-making is the thorough gathering of relevant information, analysis of potential outcomes, and choosing actions that align with organizational objectives. Women leaders excelling in decision-making not only enhance decision quality but also foster a collaborative culture by encouraging open communication and feedback loops within their teams. This inclusive approach ensures well-informed decisions supported by diverse perspectives, promoting ownership and commitment among team members.

Now let’s explore the transformative impact of women leaders in manufacturing through real-life case studies, showcasing innovation and industry growth. 

Breaking barriers: ITC pioneers’ women-led manufacturing excellence 

As reported by The Hindu Business Line, ITC Ltd, a leading Indian FMCG foods manufacturer, pioneers gender diversity in manufacturing. With a strategic approach, it employs a majority-women workforce at its facilities, including the Medak plant in Telangana, where 100% of the workforce comprises women. This progressive initiative underscores ITC’s commitment to harnessing women’s strengths for heightened operational efficiency, marking a departure from the male-dominated manufacturing sector.  

Crafting tomorrow’s leaders | AntWalk

AntWalk helps in building a solid foundation for women’s manufacturing future, fostering innovation and inclusive leadership. With our platform, you can assess the existing capabilities and map it against the global benchmark. Not only this but you can build your capabilities as per your gaps with tailormade learning solutions & measure the growth you have had to thrive in your desired role, shaping a diverse and thriving manufacturing sector. 

AntWalk leadership training programs


As the manufacturing sector undergoes rapid transformation, the unique perspective and essential skills women bring to leadership positions become indispensable. In the evolving landscape, women’s unique perspectives and skills are indispensable. Technological proficiency, strategic thinking, adaptability & resilience, inclusive leadership, and effective decision-making are pivotal for success. 

Continued learning is imperative for sustained success. Committing to growth and honing these skills empowers women leaders, contributing significantly to manufacturing innovation and their personal leadership development

As women leaders, let’s take charge of our development, shaping the industry’s future with expertise and leadership. By developing the leader within you, we can create a more inclusive, diverse, and thriving manufacturing sector for generations to come. 

Empowering organizations through a Capability-driven Talent Supply Chain, where Capability is the cornerstone for making impactful people decisions. AntWalk Envisions a world where merit and capability transcend all barriers – race, gender, sexual orientation, language, degree, or years of experience. 

Mission: We help Organizations measure and build Capabilities in line with their Business Priorities.

Picture of Ishika Rastogi
Ishika Rastogi

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