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Women in Manufacturing is a community created by Precision Metalforming Association (PMA) members and designed exclusively for women who have chosen a career in the manufacturing industry, and want to share perspectives, gain cutting edge manufacturing information, improve leadership and communication skills, participate in sponsoring programs and network with industry peers. Visit the Women in Manufacturing website.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

#HearHerStory with Karen Norheim VP of Marketing & IT at American Crane Corporation

 

At Women in Manufacturing, we are committed to supporting women in the manufacturing sector. We firmly believe that mentorship and community-building will help attract and retain women in manufacturing.  As part of our mission, we feature on our blog the stories of women we admire who are currently working in manufacturing.  The following is the latest installment of our "Hear Her Story" series.
 
 
Karen Norheim, Vice President of Marketing & IT at American Crane & Equipment Corporation
#HearHerStory / @womeninmfg


Please tell our readers a little bit about your job and what your work looks like every day.
I am the executive vice president at American Crane and Equipment Corporation located in Douglassville, PA.  American Crane is recognized as a leader in the design and manufacture of electric overhead traveling cranes, wire rope hoists and custom engineered lifting equipment.  In my role, l support the president in overseeing all company operations with emphasis on continued expansion, growth and long term strategy.  My daily activities can vary from planning sales and marketing activities to evaluating a business process for efficiency and cost savings. Some days I am on the shop floor, while others I am on my computer or meeting with my co-workers.  There is a lot of variety in my work and I love that. We have a great team here which makes it very enjoyable to come to work.
 
How did you arrive at your current position?  What attracted you to a career in manufacturing?
I was recruited by a family member.  One of the major milestones in my life was the decision to work for my father. At the time, I wondered “How fun could manufacturing be?”  It’s been more than 13 years since I made one of the best decisions of my life. Through my work with American Crane and Equipment Corporation, I found my passion for manufacturing and engineering. Where else can you bring something from concept to physical existence? I get to help solve complex problems that have real impact for our customers.
 
At WiM, much of our work is dedicated to refuting outdated stereotypes about the manufacturing sector; stereotypes like the workplaces are dirty and dangerous and that the field and skills required are a better fit for men.  Have you encountered stereotypes like these in your education or career and how did you overcome them?
I definitely think that manufacturing needs to work on its reputation. No more dated, uncool stereotypes of mechanical engineers and dirty shop floors. If it hadn’t been for my father, I may not have considered a career in manufacturing.  I would have missed out on the most rewarding job I have ever had. This is why we need to get the word out and share our passion with others!
 
Research shows that women, especially women in STEM fields, do better if they have a mentor.  Has mentorship played any role in your career? 
I have had several informal mentors in the course of my career who have been integral to my success.  I am grateful to one of my old mentors who told me to follow the opportunity in front of me even if it meant leaving her to work somewhere else. She taught me the ability to see opportunities before me and be confident enough to take the plunge whether fruitful or not. Even in failures there are valuable lesson learned. Since then, I have had a couple of other mentors including my father who have been incredible in helping me find my way. I am very grateful to have them in my life. I hope to pay it forward and become a mentor myself,  helping others through the lessons I have learned.
 
One of the key findings in WiM’s recent survey is that there is significant overlap between what young women want in careers and the attributes of careers in manufacturing today.  But the survey also found that, too often, young women are not aware of the opportunities available in manufacturing.  What do you think can be done to spread the word to women about career options in modern manufacturing?
As Hillary Clinton so aptly put it, "It takes a village" to raise a child. In the case of raising the next generation of women entering the manufacturing workforce, this is particularly true.

It takes a village — every one of us women in manufacturing — to ensure that there is a next generation of skilled women workers. When it comes to inspiring young women, it takes a village filled with those of us who are passionate about our careers and willing to be role models for those who hopefully will follow in our work boots and high heels.  

So how do we change the stereotype and spread the word? We start with our circles of influence. You can start small with manageable chunks so it's not so overwhelming. Start with your family and friends. Then look in your community for opportunities. Focus local, then expand. But start.

I've started with my own family. I gave my three-year-old niece a gift of GoldieBlox, books and building toys for girls. I took my six-year-old nephew and older niece to tour our facility at American Crane. Remember, it's never too early to start that flicker of interest. My friends are also not immune to my zeal; I share interesting manufacturing articles with them via social media.

Next, I've reached out to high schools and other community groups regarding possible partnerships, internships, site tours and mentoring. I've connected with coworkers at my company to encourage their participation in such efforts. I've expanded my circle to include trade groups, and I'm advising my alma mater, Penn State University, in hopes of growing support. And there are so many great efforts already happening that you can just pick one that suits your interests and start making a difference.

With your help, we can do more than create a spark of interest; we can turn that spark into a burning desire for women to join the ranks of American manufacturers.
 
Our survey also found that the majority of women in manufacturing today would recommend the sector to young women considering career options.  Would you recommend a career in manufacturing?  And, if so, why? 
Absolutely! Manufacturing is an orchestra of different people and skills coming together to create an end product. This can include sales, engineering, fabricating, purchasing, accounting, information technology and more. The coordination can provide an exciting work environment. Manufacturing also offers well-paying jobs with work that is both fun and rewarding. Plus, these days the manufacturing floor has so much technology integration which adds to the excitement. And, it’s just cool! I love to see our products go from concept to creation. It’s amazing!
 


Monday, July 27, 2015

New Study Finds Closing the Gender Gap in Manufacturing Will Close the Skills Gap

A new study, “Minding the Manufacturing Gender Gap,” has been conducted by the Manufacturing Institute, Deloitte, and the APICS Supply Chain Council.  This study, based on responses by 600 women working in all levels of manufacturing, came to the overarching conclusion that closing the gender gap is the smartest and most comprehensive way to close the impending manufacturing skills gap.

Recruiting the Women You Need

Make sure that the culture of your company invites diversity, that the work is both intellectually stimulating and financially rewarding, and that employees have time for work and life to be separate and fulfilling.  Respondents ranked the priorities they had in mind when they were young women choosing a career track, and the top five choices were: challenging/interesting assignments (44%), attractive pay (40%), work-life balance (26%), company culture (19%), and career progress opportunities (18%).

Retaining the Women You Have

The more women you recruit, the more you will continue to recruit.  The study determined that that women are more likely to stay in manufacturing if there are other women by which to be inspired.  The top three answers for the study’s question on retainment tactics were that women want flexible work practices (51%), mentorship and sponsorship from other women (49%), and visibility of female leaders as industry role models (44%).

Closing the Gender Gap and Skills Gap in One Move

When manufacturers focus on recruiting women, they inevitably determine that the public perception and social presence of their company needs to be updated.  If many manufacturing companies start to make changes to attract female employees, eventually the entire manufacturing sector will become more present in modern media and the minds of young people.  Deloitte predicts that these adjustments will instill a sense of excitement about manufacturing – attracting more women, yes, but also attracting young men who had not considered a manufacturing career.  The result?  A more balanced ratio of men-to-women on the shop floor and a booming manufacturing sector.


To read the study in its entirety, click here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Assurance Guest Blogger: A Passion for New Horizons

 A Passion for New Horizons
By: Mark Lam
Posted: July 22, 2015

July 14, 2015 was a pretty historic day.  It was a day where passion ruled, and there were was a big American triumph.  And no, it had nothing to do with the ACA.
 
If you’ve read any of my blog posts you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I’m an unashamed geek. One of the things I geek out on is space exploration, and on July 14, I got to watch history being made. You see, there’s this CD (everyone remember what those were?) with my name on it, that’s currently 2,966,221,981 miles from Earth, travelling at 9 miles per second, that just flew past Pluto. It’s onboard New Horizons, a piano-sized spacecraft launched nine years ago with the sole purpose of gathering science around Pluto. For the first time, we’re getting to see what Pluto really looks like, along with its moons. We’re celebrating an American technological achievement that nobody else has even tried to do, and it’s taken a very long time and a huge amount of work to get to this point. But that’s not what I want to write about this morning.
 
I want to write a little bit about the Mission Operations Manager (“MOM”) for New Horizons – a woman named Alice Bowman. She is the first female MOM for the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory – in layman’s terms; she’s a rocket scientist in charge of a team of rocket scientists. You can watch her in action here when New Horizons “phoned home” late on the 14th (the moment of truth that would let the team know the probe had survived it’s flyby of Pluto). It was a big, fulfilling, rewarding moment for her and the New Horizons team.
 
What struck me most was what she had to say after the phone home event, during a press briefing.  She was asked the proverbial “how do you feel now” question, and after some moments of contemplation, she discussed achieving her childhood dream of space exploration.  Then she said the following: “Tell your children to do what (they) are passionate about.  Do something because you want to.  Give yourself that challenge.
 
Words of wisdom from a rocket scientist; I love that statement.  I’m going to tell my daughter that wisdom.  I’m going to tell her do what she’s passionate about.  I won’t tell her it will be easy, because it won’t be.  I won’t tell her it will always be “fun”, because it won’t be.  I will tell her that it will be a challenge, but it will be a challenge worthy of her.  And in the end, it will be the passionate challenges that lead to those awe-inspiring, fulfilling moments in her life.
 
Here at Assurance, we are also passionate about what we do.  Our passion is this: “Minimize Risk. Maximize Health.”  It is certainly a challenge, and it isn’t always easy, but it’s what we do, because it’s what we thrive on.  And in the end, when we see a client with happy, healthy, employees working in a safe and productive environment, we see our passion fulfilled. That’s our reward, what we work hard for every day.  What’s yours?
Assurance is one of the largest and most awarded independent insurance brokerages in the U.S. and a proud partner of Women in Manufacturing. As our monthly guest blogger, content from Assurance's blog that pertains to women in the manufacturing sector will be published regularly.

About the Author: Mark Lam is Vice President, Benefits Compliance at Assurance, specializing in creating highly personalized client relationships through consistent communication regarding legislative and regulatory issues.

Monday, July 20, 2015

#HearHerStory with Pat Alred VP of Biosurgery at Johnson & Johnson

 
 
At Women in Manufacturing, we are committed to supporting women in the manufacturing sector. We firmly believe that mentorship and community-building will help attract and retain women in manufacturing.  As part of our mission, we feature on our blog the stories of women we admire who are currently working in manufacturing.  The following is the latest installment of our "Hear Her Story" series.
 
Pat Alred, VP of Biosurgery at Johnson & Johnson
#HearHerStory / @womeninmfg


Please tell our readers a little bit about your job and what your work looks like every day.
I am responsible for Ethicon Biosurgery’s supply chain, which makes products like Evicel and Evarrest.  We have plants located throughout the world in Europe, Israel and China. Much of my day is spent talking to my teammates in Biosurgery and other key stakeholders about tactical, strategic actions and decisions. There are a lot of project reviews and updates that keep me informed and knowledgeable about how our business is performing. In addition, I often travel to visit our manufacturing sites and this is one of my favorite activities.  I love to meet the people that work in the Biosurgery supply chain and understand their day to day accomplishments, challenges and how I can better support them. 
 
How did you arrive at your current position?  What attracted you to a career in manufacturing? 
My professional career started in Process Development, working within the clinical organization to provide manufacturing processes for new products.  From there, I moved into working on both clinical and commercial manufacturing processes, although within the development organization. I was intrigued with where our products went after clinical trials and what impact they had on patients. I felt that working within the manufacturing organization would put me much closer to the patient and also challenge me to learn new skills.  So about five years ago, I moved into our Pharmaceutical Supply Chain as the General Manager of our Malvern site that makes Remicade.  I joined the Biosurgery organization in 2014 as the Supply Chain leader.
 
At WiM, much of our work is dedicated to refuting outdated stereotypes about the manufacturing sector: stereotypes like the workplaces are dirty and dangerous and that the field and skills required are a better fit for men.  Have you encountered stereotypes like these in your education or career and how did you overcome them?
Wow, that is a stereotype, as our plants are so clean they shine!  Yes, I have certainly encountered stereotypes. Being blonde and southern, you can certainly imagine the teasing. In earnest, I think it is important we communicate openly about our work life, how we spend our days and start doing this at the high school level. Also, a picture is worth a thousand words. The videos we create of the manufacturing field would be wonderful to share with people as we discuss our careers.  On the personal side you do your best, keep your sense of humor and in the end it is your ability to deliver business results that make for success, not your gender.  While I have encountered stereotyping, much more often I have encountered support from all of my colleagues, including some outstanding supervisors willing to take the time to coach and mentor.
 
Research shows that women, especially women in STEM fields, do better if they have a mentor.  Has mentorship played any role in your career? 
Mentorship has definitely played a key role in my career.  My first mentor was a college professor that hired me to do lab research at NASA, and then played a key role in my acceptance to graduate school in Sweden. I have had several mentors throughout my career since, and each of them has taught me something unique and valuable. One of the best gifts a mentor can bestow is teaching you how to look at something from a different viewpoint. For example, view something as a financial analyst rather than a scientist. This works to give you a broader view of the business and your impact.

One of the key findings in WiM’s recent survey results is that there is significant overlap between what young women want in careers and the attributes of careers in manufacturing today.  But the survey also found that, too often, young women are not aware of the opportunities available in manufacturing.  What do you think can be done to spread the word to women about career options in modern manufacturing? 
We can spread the word through job fairs, mentoring early in careers, hosting tours of manufacturing sites and showing videos on YouTube or Ted.
 
Our survey also found that the majority of women in manufacturing today would recommend the sector to young women considering career options.  Would you recommend a career in manufacturing?  And, if so, why? 
I would absolutely recommend a career in manufacturing.  It is so rewarding to know you are touching products that are going directly to a customer! And to know that these products make a difference in their lives, whether a life-saving drug or a baby lotion, you are touching thousands of people on a daily basis and to me this is all the reward needed.  You have so many options within manufacturing – whether working on the floor, as a supervisor, in planning, purchasing, engineering, human resources…the opportunities and diversity of a career in manufacturing are endless and can grow with your career.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

#HearHerStory with Natalie Panek Mission Systems Engineer at MDA Space Missions


 

At Women in Manufacturing, we are committed to supporting women in the manufacturing sector. We firmly believe that mentorship and community-building will help attract and retain women in manufacturing.  As part of our mission, we feature on our blog the stories of women we admire who are currently working in manufacturing.  The following is the latest installment of our "Hear Her Story" series.

Natalie Panek, Mission Systems Engineer at MDA Space Missions
#HearHerStory / @womeninmfg
 
Please tell our readers a little bit about your job and what your work looks like every day.
I have worked on some amazing projects over the past few years. I've driven a solar-powered car across North America, learned how to fly a plane, and interned at NASA. Now I work on space robotics. Examples of projects I am involved with are designing the locomotion system for a Mars rover and designing robotic arms to repair satellites on orbit that have broken components or have run out of fuel. Imagine an orbital tow truck! My days are spent either at a computer using 3D models to rehearse a mission, planning the test phases of our programs, or in our clean rooms testing hardware.

How did you arrive at your current position?  What attracted you to a career in manufacturing?
I have a lifelong dream of becoming an astronaut and traveling to space. So pursuing engineering and manufacturing seemed like a natural skill set to prepare me to travel beyond the boundaries of Earth. I also love to get my hands dirty and play with technology, which a career in manufacturing certainly provides.

At WiM, much of our work is dedicated to refuting outdated stereotypes about the manufacturing sector: stereotypes like the workplaces are dirty and dangerous and that the field and skills required are a better fit for men.  Have you encountered stereotypes like these in your education or career and how did you overcome them?
While there are challenges in any industry, I think women need to focus more on why we love what we do – flying, working with robots, designing spacecraft as examples – rather than the challenges. We must inspire and we can do this by sharing our positive stories, volunteering at outreach events, or even speaking at local schools. Making ourselves accessible to a generation of young women will naturally shatter outdated stereotypes.

Research shows that women, especially women in STEM fields, do better if they have a mentor. Has mentorship played any role in your career? 
Mentorship is so important because it offers high-quality opportunities for young women to engage with, ask questions, and interact with someone in their possible field of interest. This provides a gateway to opportunities that young women may not have otherwise had. Access to professional women in manufacturing and tech fields provides options for rewarding career paths, while building confidence in girls and opportunities to discover new interests. I am grateful for a number of mentors (both men and women) throughout my career including Maryse Carmichael (first female Commander of the Canadian Snowbirds) and my first supervisor at NASA, Dr. Henning Leidecker. They taught me the value of curiosity and in following the road less traveled.

One of the key findings in WiM’s recent survey results is that there is significant overlap between what young women want in careers and the attributes of careers in manufacturing today.  But the survey also found that, too often, young women are not aware of the opportunities available in manufacturing. What do you think can be done to spread the word to women about career options in modern manufacturing?
A lack of role models is an inherent obstacle to young women pursuing manufacturing. I am a tireless advocate for more women in manufacturing and engineering at the forefront of the media – women discussing intelligent topics on TV, social media etc. so that young women recognize these positive examples of women succeeding in non-traditional roles on a regular basis. A great example is metal fabricator and land speed record holder Jessi Combs! We need the next generation of women to perceive manufacturing and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) as careers that are attainable by everyone. Paving the way for future generations of women in STEM is as simple as ensuring that the majority of youth can identify a woman in trades, technology, or engineering instead of a reality TV star!

Our survey also found that the majority of women in manufacturing today would recommend the sector to young women considering career options.  Would you recommend a career in manufacturing?  And, if so, why? 
Absolutely! Manufacturing provides so many opportunities for fulfilling work and to succeed in situations outside of your comfort zone. My advice for young women looking to get into my field (aerospace or any other manufacturing field) is to dive head-on into challenge! See challenge and risk as a means to lifelong learning and opportunities to push your limits.

 

Monday, July 6, 2015

#HearHerStory with Hannah Lenoce Apprentice at Marion Manufacturing


 
At Women in Manufacturing, we are committed to supporting women in the manufacturing sector. We firmly believe that mentorship and community-building will help attract and retain women in manufacturing.  As part of our mission, we feature on our blog the stories of women we admire who are currently working in manufacturing.  The following is the latest installment of our "Hear Her Story" series.
 


Hannah Lenoce
Apprentice
Marion Manufacturing
#HearHerStory / @womeninmfg


 
Hannah Lenoce is a smart, friendly, and talented young woman.  But, as a young teenager, she found that the traditional classroom environment did not suit her.  Uninterested in her coursework, Hannah dropped out of high school at 16.
She earned her G.E.D. and took a job working 60-hours-a-week at a car wash. It was there that the vice president of Marion Manufacturing in Cheshire, CT first noticed her.

“A lot of us at the plant went to that car wash,” Douglas Johnson has been quoted remembering. “We would see Hannah running around the cars faster than anybody else. She had those soft skills and that work ethic that everyone’s looking for.”

Several Marion employees recognized her talent and convinced Hannah to join the company as an intern.  Soon, she joined Marion’s apprenticeship program.

“I was attracted to the hands-on aspect,” says Hannah, “but I also liked that you still have to think.  To be successful in manufacturing, you still have to put in the effort.”

That effort, Hannah notes is not gender-specific. “Anyone can find a career in manufacturing,” she says. “It is a great field with so many different possibilities.”

In Hannah’s community, though, manufacturing remains a uncommon career choice for women.  At the Advanced Manufacturing Program at Naugatuck Valley Community College – a program Hannah recently completed in order to earn hours toward her national certification as a tool and die maker - she reports that her class had only two female students.

Still, Hannah did not feel that she stood out among her classmates, “Everybody treated me the same,” she said. “I’m just another toolmaker.”

Hannah also encourages other women to consider manufacturing careers beyond the false stereotypes they may have heard about the sector. “It’s not dirty at all,” she says.  “My workplace is clean and quiet.”

When she’s not working,  Hannah is still working – on cars.  Far from her days at the car wash, Hannah says she now spends downtime taking care of her own cars, especially her prized Mustangs.  

In the future, Hannah thinks she might go back to school to study tool design. “I’ll definitely stay in manufacturing,” she says. “There are so many opportunities.” 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Women in Manufacturing: Are You Investing in the Other 50 Percent?

This week, WiM’s Founder and Executive Director Allison Grealis was interviewed by Plante Moran, an international business advisory firm, on the manufacturing skills gap and how women are a largely untapped resource to fill it.

As Plante Moran notes in the piece, manufacturers struggle to replace retiring workers from the baby boomer era, a full half of the hiring pool is not being reached as effectively as possible. Although American women are 47% of the workforce, earn more than 50% of associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees in the U.S., and hold more than 50% of all supervisory positions, they make up less than 25% of the manufacturing sector’s workforce.

Read Grealis’s suggestions and insights into this disparity in the full Plante Moran interview below:

Why aren’t the numbers of women in manufacturing higher? What’s keeping women out, or why are they choosing to stay out?

GREALIS: We know that women are underrepresented in manufacturing not because they are not able, but because they still believe the manufacturing field is a better fit for men. The biggest challenge women face when considering the manufacturing sector is the untrue stigma that surrounds manufacturing today. Too often, women still think of it as their father’s manufacturing. They think that manufacturing is dirty, dark, or dangerous. But manufacturing today is generally very high-tech and involves advanced technology and automation. It is much more about brains than brawn.

How do the priorities of women working in manufacturing and of young women considering their career options align with the opportunities within the sector?

GREALIS: A recent survey Women in Manufacturing conducted with Plante Moran found that among women aged 17 to 24, interesting and challenging work and high earning potential were top priorities as these young women contemplate future career paths.

Among women currently employed in the manufacturing industry, the survey found that 82 percent reported that the field offers interestingand challenging work. Seventy-four percent agreed the industry offers multiple job roles for women, and more than half agreed that manufacturing is a leading industry for job growth. One-half believes that good compensation is a benefit of the sector. These priorities align very well with the opportunities manufacturing affords.

When we talk to women in the manufacturing sector today, the thing we hear most often about why they like their jobs is that the work is exciting. Manufacturing, our members have told us, provides the opportunity to work with emerging technologies and offers the chance to learn new skills … It really comes down to simple math. The high number of women who are pleased with their jobs in manufacturing plus the high number of open manufacturing jobs equals a unique opportunity to attract more top-tier female talent to the manufacturing sector.

It’s also well documented that diversity is crucial to fostering innovation in the workplace, and many recent studies have shown that organizations with larger percentages of women in leadership positions outperform their competition.

But those outdated perceptions of manufacturing are hard to overcome, especially if women remain under-represented among manufacturing leadership positions. Survey results found that over 50 percent of women felt having very few to no women currently in executive or management positions was a primary obstacle in the retention and advancement of women.

GREALIS: There are many ways companies can capitalize on the opportunities to invest in women and break down barriers. Many of the successful female leaders in manufacturing today indicate they had an internal champion or role model. Mentorship is important. Building a solid infrastructure for a supportive community also is important because we often hear from our members that they were not planning on a career in manufacturing until someone along the way recognized their talent and encouraged them. 


​In addition, competitive salaries, modern workplaces that offer challenging and stimulating assignments and the chance to work with advanced and emerging technologies, flexible work schedules, job sharing, programs to promote careers in manufacturing. These all move us beyond the negative stereotypes and attract diverse and talented workers.