Women are essential to the future of the manufacturing industry. In today’s industry, women are an untapped resource, representing 50% of the general workforce and only a quarter of the manufacturing workforce. In order for the U.S. manufacturing industry to reach its full potential and become a global leader, women must be recognized as a priority for future employment. Women provide creativity, construct a different perspective, generate thought leadership, and make manufacturing strong.
The Manufacturing Institute has dedicated its STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Production) Ahead initiative to promote the role of women in manufacturing and offer best practices to attract, retain, and advance female talent in the industry. On March 26, the Institute will host the third STEP Ahead Awards honoring 130 women for their leadership and accomplishments in manufacturing. For the first time, the Institute will honor Emerging Leaders -– young women who have demonstrated excellence early on in their careers. Below are a few of their stories:
Audrey Mills is a product test and qualification engineer from Ingersoll Rand. She joined Ingersoll Rand in 2011 as part of the Industrial Technologies division, working in the global development lab. As a test engineer, Audrey is the sole test engineer, responsible for developing, scheduling, and analyzing testing and test data for existing and new fluid products. Two months before Audrey started, the fluids lab was moved from Bryan, Ohio to Davidson, N.C. Audrey led this transition by standardizing processes for how product tests were run, creating a workflow tracker to ensure that the lab was turning test requests over as quickly as possible, and establishing a means for tracking test reports associated with test requests.
Prior to joining the Ingersoll Rand team, Audrey taught AP Physics, Physics and Robotics at North Carolina's largest charter school. Making the transition from the front lines of education to a corporate work environment was a challenge, but she has found that she continues to make a positive impact on lives.
“[My role models have been] all of my teachers past and present that have believed in me and dedicated their lives to their craft. As a former teacher myself, I truly appreciate the incredible hard work and selflessness of exemplary teachers. I've been fortunate to have so many great ones along my journey,” Audrey said.
Melanie Helmer is a senior buyer for HOERBIGER Corporation of America, Inc. She manages $11 million of spend annual, of which $9 million is intercompany spend within the division. Melanie’s career in purchasing began in Germany while working for HOERBIGER, where she became an expert in SAP functionality. When HOERBIGER Corporation of America migrated to SAP, Melanie was asked to come to the United States to train the team. Melanie’s exceptional skills in this area resulted in a permanent job offer, moving from her small village in Germany to Pompano, Fla.
Melanie’s accomplishments at HOERBIGER can be attributed to her delightful personality, her passion for her work and her initiative. She interacts well with others, always open to exploring and improving new processes that drive improvement. In 2012, Melanie received the “Recognition of Excellence” award presented by the South Florida Manufacturers Association.
"When I think about manufacturing in the U.S., the name that comes to mind is Henry Ford, who once said 'Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success.' I consider teamwork and innovation to be the drivers that will continue to make manufacturing strong,” Melanie said.
Manufacturing is where the value is added. It's fast paced, demanding, decisions have to be made quickly, and solutions have to be developed and implemented immediately."
—Lindsey Chapman, Procter & Gamble
Lindsey Chapman is the Operation Department manager for the Rotary Packing Department at the Procter & Gamble (IW 500/14) Kansas City site. She has led her department to delivery of record production results, including best ever process reliability and line stops. Lindsey and her team accomplished these results while increasing the line speeds by 6% – making her lines the fastest rotary filling lines in the company.
Lindsey has had a unique set of experiences in her 10-year career with P&G. She chose to develop broad knowledge across several different businesses and disciplines. Moving from the hair care business, where she learned basic manufacturing skills, to the laundry business, where she refined her manufacturing operations skills, to the supply network operations to learn production planning, Lindsey built the skills needed to become a leader among her coworkers.
“Manufacturing is where the value is added. It’s fast paced, demanding, decisions have to be made quickly, and solutions have to be developed and implemented immediately. It brings me satisfaction to build capability in my organization and see them flourish and deliver results that make their lives better,” Lindsey said.
These young women who have excelled in the early beginnings of their manufacturing careers show the next generation of female leaders what they can accomplish in this industry and aspire to emulate these impressive women. These real stories have shown us that women in the industry affect our economy, our standards of living, and our general well-being. They prove to us that women do in fact make manufacturing strong.
Jennifer McNelly is president of The Manufacturing Institute,the non-profit affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). Jennifer leads an agenda focused on improving and expanding manufacturing in the United States through education, innovation, and research.