CME releases action plan to attract, retain and advance women in manufacturing careers

Ottawa, October 25, 2017

Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) released today its action plan to promote and inspire women to pursue careers in manufacturing. Untapped Potential: Attracting and engaging women in Canadian Manufacturing aims at identifying solutions to showcase the vast and untapped opportunities the sector offers for women to build fulfilling careers and narrow the gender gap in the workforce.

“CME’s action plan is instrumental in obtaining a better understanding of the current realities of women in Canadian industry. We are urging the manufacturing community, government leaders and industry stakeholders to work together and implement our recommendations,” said CME National Board of Directors Chair Rhonda Barnet, President & COO of Steelworks Design Inc. “Attracting more women into manufacturing professions is critical to helping manufacturers grow and to replace the existing and aging workforce.”

The action plan highlights five areas where action is needed in order to improve female representation in manufacturing:

  • More high-profile female role models are needed to inspire and encourage young women to pursue a career in manufacturing.
  • Young women need more exposure to modern manufacturing facilities to gain a more accurate perspective on the career opportunities available to them. Those efforts need to focus on occupations within manufacturing rather than on the sector itself.
  • Efforts to encourage young girls to pursue an education in STEM fields and/or the skilled trades need to be improved.
  • Businesses need to listen to the concerns of women and take steps to make their workplace culture more inclusive.
  • Businesses must find creative ways to improve work-life balance for their employees and to accommodate both women and men who have unavoidable family obligations.

Although most women in manufacturing are happy with their career choice — 80 per cent of the respondents would consider remaining in manufacturing if they could pick any profession– women only account for 28 per cent of the manufacturing workforce. Additionally, there has been no increase in the share of manufacturing jobs held by women over the last 15 years. Only six per cent of employed women in Canada have a job in manufacturing compared to 13 per cent of all men.

“Our hope is that in a few years, the participation of women in manufacturing will not be a challenge, but rather as a strength, that powers the competitiveness and growth of Canadian manufacturers internationally,” said Lesley Lawrence, Senior Vice President, Ontario at BDC and member of CME’s national Women in Manufacturing working group.


Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters’ (CME) Women in Manufacturing Working Group was launched by National Board of Directors Chair Rhonda Barnet in March 2017. The Working Group was created in response to a key recommendation from CME’s Industrie 2030 initiative regarding the need to attract more women to manufacturing to help address chronic labour and skills shortages in the sector.

Chaired by Elise Maheu, the Working Group includes women and men representing CME member companies from a wide range of sizes and industries. The Working Group is dedicated to supporting, promoting and inspiring women to pursue careers in manufacturing.


Since 1871, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters has been helping manufacturers grow at home and, compete around the world. Our focus is to ensure manufacturers are recognized as engines for growth in the economy, with Canada acknowledged as both a global leader and innovator in advanced manufacturing and a global leader in exporting. CME is a member-driven association that directly represents more than 2,500 leading companies who account for an estimated 82 per cent of manufacturing output and 90 per cent of Canada’s exports.


Stefi Proulx

Director of Communications & Branding

Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters

(613) 292-6070