Women in Manufacturing: Making It Happen in a Man’s World

Have a curious and open mind about what is happening in manufacturing. Create a vision of what the industry’s future could become with you involved. Manufacturers are rapidly adapting to technology and the global economy, which means they offer great opportunities for employees with many different skill sets who can support companies’ growth.

منبع: https://www.qualitydigest.com/inside/quality-insider-column/women-manufacturing-making-it-happen-mans-world-043024.html

Each business that CIRAS interacts with has a unique situation and a unique challenge. My personal challenge is to understand their needs and draw on my expertise and experience to help them find the right resources at the right time. I get excited seeing clients succeed, which motivates me to give my best.

How do you go far in manufacturing?

My advice for women interested in pursuing a career in manufacturing is to answer the question, “What is it I want?” Then make it happen. Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know.

People who already work in industry can share their paths and give ideas. Ask them. See it, try it out. There are various ways to learn about manufacturing in clubs and school activities. Manufacturing Day events are held for weeks each October in Iowa and other states. Look for these events, which often include plant visits.

During my teen years, I worked for Vermeer Corp., a global manufacturer of industrial and agricultural machines. I also watched the production lines at the Rolscreen site of Pella Corp. So my manufacturing roots reach back far into my youth.

I jumped at the chance to work for Carnation and took advantage of every training and skill-building experience I could. It wasn’t easy. I spent years on the second and third shifts.

Women were often held to a higher standard than men. And there were people who had to be convinced that I belonged. But I accepted this challenge and focused on outperforming others. I worked extremely hard to learn every aspect of our business, and I won credibility based on the results.

After graduating from Truman State University with a biology and environmental science degree, I began my career in manufacturing with Carnation Co., later acquired by Nestlé. We produced canned pet food that required a complex process in a niche market. I’m proud of the contributions I made to help the company become a global innovator of pet care products.

When I began my career, the prevailing attitude and reality were that women didn’t work outside the home—not in manufacturing, and certainly not in leadership positions in industry. I was lucky to find an open-minded, family-owned company that gave me an equal opportunity to compete for employment and promotions based on skill and merit.

With a career of more than 40 years in the manufacturing industry, I look back now and see that I was greatly influenced by my father, who worked for an engineering firm. He shared his vast mechanical know-how with me. The two of us worked on many projects together, including rebuilding my car’s engine—an experience that wasn’t common among my peers at the time.

Deep manufacturing roots

My unique perspective was new to the male-dominated meetings at Carnation. However, my co-workers soon recognized that I was a valuable team member. Reflecting on my past, I was often the only woman on the committee, board, or leadership team. Even today, I know that I represent myself and women who want to succeed in manufacturing.

Extending my career into manufacturing extension

I’ve now worked with the Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS, the Iowa MEP Center) at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, for more than 20 years. As the Workforce Programs director with CIRAS, I enjoy applying my industry experience to helping CIRAS and its manufacturing clients.

I knew early on in my manufacturing career that I had found what I was looking for. I love taking raw materials and ideas, applying science, processes, and technical innovation, and turning it all into a finished product that the world wants and needs.

Challenged to be better than my male peers