Empowering Women in Manufacturing Pays Off, Bylined Article in Prairie Business Magazine

Empowering Women in Manufacturing Pays Off, Bylined Article in Prairie Business Magazine

By Jean Voorhees, Vice President of Business Development

Developing recruitment methods that attract women to the manufacturing industry is critical due to the area’s shortage of skilled workers.  More importantly, however, is that women add diversity and bring a new perspective to strategic thinking that can positively impact culture, efficiency, and profitability.

At WCCO Belting there are more women on our production floor than ever before.  In fact, women make up 45 percent of our production team compared to the national average of 29 percent.  They operate equipment, run forklifts, package pallets, and perform all other activities within our facility.

While targeting women wasn’t a planned approach for WCCO Belting, we recognized significant improvements after a reestablished focus on employee empowerment and engagement.  Since 2012, WCCO Belting is producing 20% more product with 20% fewer employees.


Creating a work environment equally appealing to both men and women has been a longstanding priority of WCCO Belting. We’ve learned that a valuable step a business can take to encourage employees’ work-life balance is provide set shifts versus rotating shifts.  It’s easier for employees and their families, especially single-parent homes, to structure their personal lives and coordinate childcare. 

Making progressive strategic decisions like this does put pressure on leadership to operationally demand-plan and make concessions when necessary, but for us the pros have far outweighed the cons.  In 2012, WCCO Belting’s turnover rate was up to 75 percent.  Between 2014 and 2018, the average turnover rate reduced to less than 3 percent.

Another key to success is driving gender bias out of the company.  We make a conscious effort to promote neutrality between work responsibilities.  Men and women train side-by-side after they’re hired to demonstrate WCCO Belting’s belief in respect and equality. This also supports the assimilation of women into a manufacturing environment.


Critical to female empowerment is letting their voices be heard.  In workplaces that are predominately male, it’s not uncommon for women to feel uncomfortable sharing ideas. In fact, a report by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute states that 51% of women believe that the culture of the manufacturing industry is biased toward men.

A woman’s ability to creatively problem-solve can directly impact the bottom-line, but it is the responsibility of her employer to encourage feedback and provide a fair environment to submit ideas.  Implementing a process improvement program is a great step towards developing a diverse workplace that encourages input from employees, however, an effective program will be driven from the top down and structured to succeed.

Since WCCO Belting’s program launched in 2014, over 2,000 ideas have been submitted and over half have been implemented.  Unlike a traditional process improvement program where a cost-savings analysis determines implementation, the ideas submitted by employees are discussed openly on a weekly basis by a team of 20 production and non-production personnel.  Not only does this demonstrate leadership’s trust in employees to make educated decisions about their own activities, but also allows new employees to make an immediate impact.


About five years ago, WCCO Belting made the decision to prioritize training to improve product quality and reduce tribal knowledge.  Since then, we’ve developed over 50 internal training courses and leadership continues to allocate resources to its growth.  We also continue to research and promote external resources such as emotional intelligence training and diversity and inclusion training.

After standardizing training and launching the process improvement program, employee engagement soared.  These programs, combined with the uniqueness of our products and processes, provide everyone the same opportunity to advance in their career.  If a person has the willingness to learn and the determination to be a productive employee, they will succeed at WCCO Belting.


Our founder had a remarkable ability to inspire and challenge people to be successful in roles they thought were outside of their capability.  Promoting professional growth is still a part of WCCO Belting’s culture today, and all employees are provided opportunities to grow and encouraged to pursue additional responsibilities.  Today, two-thirds of our production supervisors are women.

If your business isn’t promoting manufacturing careers to women, you are discounting a large pool of talented candidates who could add significant value to your operation.  Diverse thinking and behavioral styles can shape your organization for the better and result in a considerable return on investment.

To view the article online visit: http://prairiebusiness.epubs.forumprinting.com/publication/

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Our dedicated team and friendly culture consistently rank WCCO as one of the best places to work in the area, and we are always looking for great people