The international market is there for the taking and more women manufacturers need to be taking. Shailo Rao Mistry, president of Jayco MMI, based in Southern California, is on a mission to encourage women to expand their business markets outside of the U.S.
Over 18 years ago her company, a manufacturer which develops, designs, engineers and manufactures user interface products including membrane switches, control panels, keypads and touch screens for medical devices, aircraft, security systems and high-end domestic appliances to improve human machine interaction, sought business abroad. Since 1992, Jayco has been a pioneer in developing partnerships and alliances in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and China.
"We entered the global arena with a vision and with pioneering spirit. We saw the international markets as a natural extension of our U.S markets. With our expertise in design and engineering we looked to the Far East for its cost-effective manufacturing opportunities," explained Rao-Mistry.
What Jayco found was that the cost-effective angle progressed into design and development areas which were facilitated by partnerships and alliances.
But not enough women are taking advantage of these opportunities, says Rao-Mistry. Last year when she chaired the Women and Men in Decision Caucus at The United Nations Commission on Status Of Women (CSW) whose purpose was to develop trade and commerce, she found that women were absent at high-level panel discussions and at most senior levels. "There were very few women involved in making decisions on trade agreements and those decisions have a direct effect on us as business owners," she said.
Looking at reasons why women are noticeably absent, Rao-Mistry feels that they are just not aware of the opportunities. "We are busy serving our current customers but chances are our next customer will be globally based. We need to prepare for that and educate ourselves as how to do business abroad."
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Accepting women in business also has to do with the openness of the culture, says Rao-Mistry. For example in the U.S. 47% of businesses are women-owned. In Europe that number is only 30%. In the U.S. women are comfortable being more aggressive than their global counterparts and they operate their businesses with a very strong drive for success.
Looking specifically at attracting more women into manufacturing, Rao-Mistry offers a unique perspective. "I think that in terms of education women are there. They are at the top of their classes and they are enrolling. But they don't view manufacturing as a career choice. What I explain to the students is that manufacturing is the means through which they can bring their ideas, products and innovations to market. It starts with the idea."
In fact Rao-Mistry's company Jayco operates exactly from that premise. Their clients come to them with ideas and together they create products. In fact one of their products an aircraft cockpit flight bag, is a finalist for an AEA innovation technology award -- the industry's version of the Oscars.
Rao-Mistry travels the world promoting women in business and most recently was on a trade mission to the Netherlands and Belgium sponsored by the National Association of Women Business Owners, the U.S. Department of Commerce and Women in Business.
Her advice to women, "Get to the table, be part of the discussion and make sure you are heard. Globalization is here to stay and you must be part of it to compete successfully."