The Manufacturing Institute launched the STEP women’s initiative to support women in science, engineering, production, and technology careers and inspire more to join them. Why is this important?

It’s the right thing to do. Women today account for less than a third of manufacturers (29%) despite representing almost half of all workers (47%). Yet it’s manufacturing that set the stage for a decades-long march of women into the workforce. Women in previous generations showed the country what they could do through manufacturing and it’s on us to inspire girls in the next generation to dream of what they can do through manufacturing too. 

It’s critical to solving the workforce crisis. Women represent one of the largest pools of untapped talent for manufacturers. Thus, closing manufacturing’s gender gap is key to closing the skills gap too. Moreover, research shows that gender diversity benefits a manufacturing firm by improving its ability to innovate and grow.

STEP is dedicated to fostering a 21st century manufacturing workforce that gives women the recognition and support they deserve and does so primarily through two different programs. 

STEP Forward works to educate manufacturers on attracting and retaining women employees through regional outreach events and an online community. 

STEP Ahead focuses on honoring the best of the best female leaders in the manufacturing industry now and then arms them with the tools to pay it forward and inspire, engage and mentor the next generation through an annual awards gala and associated leadership training program. By honoring current and existing leaders we are building and elevating the role models that can inspire the next generation – and we are building the networks for women to have support in their industry and do even more.    

We know that the Institute's STEP Ahead initiative has made a difference—in just five years, STEP Ahead Award winners have impacted more than 300,000 individuals, from peers in the industry to school-age children. To date, we have honored 932 women who are making a difference in their companies and communities, and we are excited to continue building this army of leaders in 2020.


Recognition of great leadership is a first stride in ensuring American manufacturing will STEP Ahead. To learn more about the Institute's STEP Women's Initiative, download the STEP Ahead Prospectus.

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