Changing the Perception: Interviews Part 1

How do we get more women into the industries, like manufacturing, when the perception is still that it’s a man’s job? We asked these questions and a few more to women who currently work in the manufacturing sector. We hope these next few posts will shine some light on how to change the perceptions of the industry.

Interview 1- Rose E Hearn- aka Rosa the Riveter

Company—Brighton Best International

Do you think there is a stigma attached to the industry that keeps young women from entering it?

Most women are influenced to join the industry by a family member who worked in manufacturing/industrial sector but, in general academic children are not going to consider the trade, though they may enter the industrial/manufacturing sector via further education and university as architects or engineers.  Un-academic boys will readily apply for a position in one of the trades, but deeply entrenched stereotypes and immaturity ensure that most girls will reject even the suggestion of entering the construction/manufacturing/industrial job market themselves.  It is more comfortable to conform than to differ.

What unique qualities and perspectives do you think women bring to leadership? And specifically in the manufacturing/industrial sector?

Females perform construction/industrial/manufacturing tasks as well as males.  Women bring to their employment many soft skills recognized as important by other industries: communication, ability to empathize with the customer, attention to detail, multi-tasking and so on.

What progress has been made in integrating women into the manufacturing/industrial sector?

The US Manufacturing/ Industrial sector has become increasingly sophisticated and the increases of female-friendly work policies have increased as well.  Employers who offer flexible work schedules, daycare and the ability to perform assignments through technology;  have made it easier for women to participate in our industry.

What do you think has kept women from getting more of a share of the leadership in the industry?

The women I know in leadership roles have worked intensely to earn their positions.  There is no magic to this. They focused on it and walked the talk. Instead of always focusing on what women need to do to increase their leadership chances, manufacturing/industrial companies should concentrate on preparing men to work more effectively with women and training more women on the operations side of the industry.

What more do you think should be done to further women in the industry?

I believe the way the sector can inspire females to enter the industry is by concentrating its’ energies on the adult women new entrant.  Once women are in the 26-35 age groups, they also have experience of the job market and, more importantly–life.  They want to be able to provide more for their family, overcome socioeconomic barriers, and even plan for old age.  Because they have acquired these values, adult learners are more driven and resilient.  They have more at stake and so exercise tenacity and work ethic.  These women can more than fill the gap while we wait for our school graduates to gain interest.

Also, the Industry must change the perception of what a Manufacturing/Industrial person looks like, putting new faces to the profession so that it seems like an attainable career for people for either gender and across ethnicities.

What are you seeing with regard to women in the industry now that inspires you?

There is little support that such women can tap into:  one exception is WIFI.  Women in the Fastener Industry is a not-for-profit organization whose main purpose is to empower, support and promote women in these male-dominated occupations.  WIFI workshops are throughout the country and offices are based in Illinois.  Here, over many years, and through several incarnations, a group of dedicated women has worked to achieve these aims through providing activities focused largely on the “fastener trade”.  Any woman is welcome to get involved and we do ask for membership.  I am proud to be a current board member and co-chair of the member committee for WIFI. We run very basic courses at WIFI, some courses are held for men and women, but all seminars are taught by skilled and qualified professionals.  We do not offer trade-level training, but hope to inspire and inform women who may never have considered fasteners as a career.

 


 

Interview 2

Do you think there is a stigma attached to the industry that keeps young women from entering it?

I do not think that there is a stigma attached to industry that keeps women out of it. Thought, it has been a male dominated sector of society for so long, that we are still catching up. Growing up, children look to members of their families, and careers that they are in contact with such as doctors, nurses, teachers and police officers for future career options. As more woman move into industrial career roles, more young females will see industry as an option. It just takes time

What unique qualities and perspectives do you think women bring to leadership? And specifically in the manufacturing/industrial sector?

If you look at the role of woman throughout history, we are seen as gatherers, the ones that raised the children, and the persons responsible for keeping the house in order. The detail oriented multi-taskers who are emotional, creative, and caring. Though our personalities very to the extreme, it is difficult to get away from the stereotype of what and who women are. That being said, the very stereotypes that have been used, are actually what makes us strong. Our emotions and ability to build relationships give us the advantage for leadership roles, as we are able to understand the needs of team members and lead them more effectively. Understanding when they need discipline, and when they need guidance.

What progress has been made in integrating women into the manufacturing/industrial sector?

Over the last few years there has been a lot of progress for woman in the manufacturing/ industrial sector. More woman are entering into the roles, being promoted to leadership roles and starting their own companies. In addition, there are more organizations that support woman in industry, allowing there to be a supportive community out there for the development of woman in these roles.

What do you think has kept women from getting more of a share of the leadership in the industry?

I think that the main thing keeping women from getting more of a share of the leadership in the industry would be time. The concept of gender equality is still a fairly new concept for society. As we expand our footprint in industry and manufacturing and develop more experience in the industrial market, there will be more opportunities in leadership for woman. Generally speaking, men have been in this industry for generations, as our experience develops, and time in the industrial market increases, there will be more women seen in leadership roles in the next decade.

What more do you think should be done to further women in the industry?

As we slowly creep our way in to the industrial world, our call to action will be the continuous development of programs, support systems, and awareness groups to help woman in the industry evolve in their roles, and inspire a new generation of women to enter into the industrial sector.

What are you seeing with regard to women in the industry now that inspires you?

For me, the most inspiring thing in regards to women in the industry is seeing a woman in a position of power without it being acknowledged. Yes, it is exciting when a woman moves into a leadership role for the first time within a company, or functional area. In a lot of situations it a celebrated turn of events. However, the real win is when a woman moves into a leadership role, and the fact of her being a woman is not noticed. That is when true equality sets in.

 

**Some of the women in the interviews have asked to remain anonymous and we respect that right, and so will not post their name with the interview