STEP Dinner Gala 2016

Women Making a Large Impact in Manufacturing

March 3, 2018
In five years, STEP Ahead Award winners, a program from NAM, has impacted more than 300,000 individuals, engaging in efforts to develop both current and future women in manufacturing careers.

While Rosie the Riveter seems like something out of the distant past, last year the Manufacturing Institute, which is part of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), honored Anna Hess who was one of those riveters.

Anna worked from 1942 until 1945 at Mohawk Rubber Co. as a splicer, bend builder and cutting machine operator.  At the 2016 ceremony honoring women in manufacturing, Hess was featured as an example of the important role women play in manufacturing. (See video of Anna’s remarks below.)

Next month, on April 10, the Institute will continue honoring women as it recognizes 130 women with the Women in Manufacturing STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Ahead Award at a Washington, D.C., ceremony.

The Manufacturing Institute launched the Science, Technology, Engineering and Production (STEP) Ahead initiative in 2012 to showcase the impact of women in manufacturing to help attract and retain the talent the industry needs to succeed.

“These inspirational women have stepped up as leaders in our industry, building the future of manufacturing and our country,” said NAM CEO Jay Timmons, when announcing the upcoming ceremony.

“They set a powerful example as we seek to bring more people, especially women, into modern manufacturing. Manufacturers have an urgent need for talented new workers to join us, and we have rewarding, well-paying careers to offer. Women are under-represented in the industry, so there’s an incredible opportunity before us, and STEP Ahead is helping us seize it.”

The group, along with Deloitte and APICS issued a report entitled, “Women in manufacturing: Stepping up to make an impact that matters,” which pointed out that women constitute one of manufacturing’s largest pools of untapped talent.

Women total about 29% of the manufacturing workforce, far below their representation in the U.S. labor force as a whole. But the STEP Ahead Honorees and Emerging Leaders are “promoted more often, have a clearer vision of their career path and aspirations and are committed to encouraging future generations of women to pursue manufacturing careers. In five years, STEP Ahead Award winners impacted more than 300,000 individuals, engaging in efforts to develop women in their careers and the next generation.”

The report surveyed over 600 women in manufacturing to explore how effectively manufacturing companies are attracting, recruiting, and retaining women, and what should be done to close the gender gap.

The women surveyed are well-educated (88% hold a bachelor’s degree or above), experienced (71% have been working over 15 years), hold a variety of senior positions, are employed by large companies (52% work in organizations with annual revenue over $1 billion), and are evenly represented across generations.

And one of the strongest cases to bringing more women into the field was the research from the study which shows that gender diversity benefits a manufacturing firm through improved ability to innovate, higher return on equity (ROE), and increased profitability.

To view the full report click here.

About the Author

Adrienne Selko | Senior Editor

Focus: Workforce, Talent 

Follow Me on Twitter: @ASelkoIW

Bio: Adrienne Selko has written about many topics over the 17 years she has been with the publication and currently focuses on workforce development strategies. Previously Adrienne was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck? which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics and EHS Today

Editorial mission statement: Manufacturing is the enviable position of creating products, processes and policies that solve the world’s problems. When the industry stepped up to manufacture what was necessary to combat the pandemic, it revealed its true nature. My goal is to showcase the sector’s ability to address a broad range of workforce issues including technology, training, diversity & inclusion, with a goal of enticing future generations to join this amazing sector.

Why I find manufacturing interesting: On my first day working for a company that made medical equipment such as MRIs, I toured the plant floor. On every wall was a photo of a person, mostly children. I asked my supervisor why this was the case and he said that the work we do at this company has saved these people’s lives. “We never forget how important our work is and everyone’s contribution to that.” From that moment on I was hooked on manufacturing.

I have talked with many people in this field who have transformed their own career development to assist others. For example, companies are hiring those with disabilities, those previously incarcerated and other talent pools that have been underutilized. I have talked with leaders who have brought out the best in their workforce, as well as employees doing their best work while doing good for the world. 

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