Women Leaders in Manufacturing

Women in Manufacturing Photo
Lois James headshot
By Lois James

What do you think of when you hear the word “manufacturing”? When you hear the words “women in manufacturing”? When you hear the words “women in leadership in manufacturing”? If that makes you stop and think, good.

I recently attended a conference in Southwest Virginia geared towards women in manufacturing, and there were well over 200 women in attendance. The speakers at this conference all echoed one important fact: get the word out to women at an early age to consider manufacturing as a career choice.

Sherrika Sanders was with Dow Chemical for 9 years where she created a recruiting program to attract women to manufacturing at an early age. Sherrika was introduced to STEM and modern manufacturing at a high school science camp that “sealed the deal” for her career choice. Sherrika is an advocate for introducing middle and high school aged girls to opportunities in the manufacturing industry. We need to stop thinking of manufacturing jobs as male only jobs on a factory floor. Career paths in manufacturing include engineering, information technology, human resources, management, journalism, and so many others. Peggy Gulick, Director Digital Transformation, Global Manufacturing at AGCO, sums it up well by explaining her passion for her chosen career in manufacturing, “If working with wearables, drones, 3D printing, robots and autonomous vehicles is not enough, in the end, I get to make things.”

Another push to attract women to the manufacturing industry is to highlight successful women who young women can look up to. For example, Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, leads a global business that has no gender pay gap according to the 2018 Global Report on Gender Equality. Marillyn Hewson, Chairman, President, & CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation, has positioned the company as a leader in the aerospace, security, and technology industries.Allison Grealis, the founder of the nonprofit trade association Women in Manufacturing, asserts, “It’s important to note that not only is manufacturing good for women, but women are also good for manufacturing.” She explains that there is a significant skills gap in the manufacturing industry, and we need to look to women to help fill that gap to stay viable. Women currently only make up about 29% of the manufacturing workforce, so there are tremendous opportunities for women to be successful in this industry. Allison continues, “research tells us that when companies are more diverse, and when there are more women at the leadership table, those companies are more profitable.”

As work organizations diversify, the manufacturing sector holds the greatest opportunity for women to add value. So, the next time you hear the words “women in leadership in manufacturing”, I hope you think of incredibly talented women who are dedicated to their careers and industry and who bring knowledge, creativity and success to the manufacturing world.

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