Changing the Perception: Interviews Part 3

Today is the last day of March which is Women’s History Month. To celebrate, all week we’ve been posting interviews we’ve held with women in the manufacturing sector focused on changing the perception of women in the industry. I can only hope that the insight gained from these interviews will spark some conversations which will result in positive changes.  Enjoy the last few interviews.

Interview: Kristi Keen

Company: Field

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

My answer would be yes and no. I would defiantly say that within today’s world, women have a much larger selection of industries/trades to enter into as men do, but there is still room for growth. As an example you still see the Manufacturing, Plumbing, Electrical, Industrial Industries still being mostly lead by men. But there are many young women today who are showing a larger interest within these industries leadership roles.

What unique qualities and perspectives do you think women bring to leadership?

I believe that one of the unique qualities that a woman brings into the leadership role is being more engaged with their employees. I also find that being proactive and taking a new approach to learning new things can be very beneficial. One of the most unique perspectives that woman leaders have is to constantly learn to adapt and become flexible. Women also have a different style of communicating than men, especially during a difficult situation.

What about leadership in the manufacturing/industrial sector?

Personally I still do not see a large amount of growth within the manufacturing/industrial sectors for woman in a leadership role, but it is slowly getting better. This is still mainly lead by men. I would hope that within the next 25 years, this will no longer be a slow movement. Hopefully by then there will be an equal amount of gender leaders in all business sectors.

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

There has been a great effort made in integrating women into the manufacturing/industrial sector by just allowing them to be there. Being present is the first step, and taking lead is second. Women are also getting louder with their voices and men are becoming more aware of their strength and confidence.

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

I believe it is still the lack of knowledge of some men not being opened or educated to involve a woman into a leadership role. There is also still that large high glass ceiling that still hovers around business. There is also still that stigma that a woman just can’t be taken seriously if she is in a leadership position. Also, to be honest there are just still some men out there that will not take orders from a woman. This is mainly due to that individual’s upbringing.

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

Society needs to start accepting women as being capable to accomplish (mostly) anything that a man can do. Also, women still need to stay confident and believe in themselves as leaders.

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

It inspires me to see our younger generations become more involved with important topics such as this. Education is the key to success regardless of what gender you are. The more involved we can get our younger generation aware of this ongoing dilemma the more attention we can put towards correcting it. As each year passes our past does not become our future.

 


 

Interview 6

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

I do. I think most women think that manufacturing is a man’s job. Most educational institutions do a poor job of discussing manufacturing in general, so both women and men who could be great in the industry, don’t even consider manufacturing as a career. I think that the industry as a whole needs to do a better job to educate our youth about what manufacturing really involves. Our Country needs manufacturing, it’s good for the economy, and so it’s the job of the industry to create a ‘new buzz’ to get those top candidates and to break the stigma that it’s a ‘man’s job’ or even a labor intensive dirty job.

What unique qualities and perspectives do you think women bring to leadership?

Women are a lot more complex than men are, in a good way. From experience I can say I’ve seen that most women are better at multi-tasking then most men. Women can bring a different perspective to a leadership team and most women have a higher emotional intelligence then men. When dealing with stressful situations women tend to react in a different way, which may benefit the outcome. I’ve seen more women continue to be rational in the face of a heated debate, where some men can not contain their temper and they use emotion to fuel their anger. Women often have a tendency to leave business with business and not drag personally emotions in to it. Whereas I’ve seen more men feel threatened by an opinion and take it personally. This is not a dig on men, but again when someone has a different opinion women tend to see both sides and don’t take things personally, whereas men don’t do as well with this.

What about leadership in the manufacturing/industrial sector?

The manufacturing sector is dominated by men and so of course most executive level teams are made up of mostly men.

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

I would say progress has slowed incredibly. Industry studies show that women in manufacturing is at its lowest point since the 1970’s. It seems that girls just really don’t want to be in manufacturing because it is seen as male job. The industry really needs to focus on recruiting talent, not just women, and start addressing the concerns that young people have about the industry. If leading companies can address concerns and start changing the stigma of the industry, then manufacturing will start to bounce back. But ignoring the issue is not going to solve the problem. The people in the manufacturing sector need to make a REAL effort to changing the stigma surrounding their jobs if they want to hire talented men and women.

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

I think part of the reason is that in this industry men have been working in it longer, and women have to play catch-up. But seniority shouldn’t matter; a leadership position should be achieved based on the employees’ contributions. I think for so long the industry has had a ‘boys club’ that it’s hard for some of them to switch that up. Others see women as a threat, and still others do not respect a woman’s opinion. I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve sat in where I’ve been interrupted and yet the men aren’t interrupted. Or I’ve said something, no one says anything, then a man says the same thing, and he is told it’s a great idea. It’s frustrating to be in a position where you are told you are respected and your opinion matters, but in reality that is not the case. Your opinion only matters if your male counterparts also believe it is a good idea. Women have to generally work harder than a man and wait longer than a man to get the promotion.  This is not to say that men don’t work hard, because they do. But it’s almost like a woman needs to prove that she is worthier than a man to get the same promotion. And this stigma is what has kept women from achieving leadership positions, it isn’t the woman’s fault, it is the fault of her male superiors for setting expectations for women that, in some cases, are almost unachievable.

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

I think that men need to listen to the women they employ and make a conscious effort to acknowledge that there is an issue.  I think change won’t happen until men actually see the problem. You could tell someone all day long ‘you need to promote more females’ but until a man actually see’s the behavior, acknowledges that women are paid less, that women aren’t heard as often, that the expectations are higher than a man’s expectations,  women won’t get further in the industry.  Women though can certainly help other women by creating groups and having seminars, etc. By continuing to bring up these issues, until it is no longer seen as ‘ground breaking’ when a woman gets a promotion. I also think strong mentorship programs should be put in place.

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

Articles like this are inspiring because it goes to show that someone isn’t afraid to bring up an issue and get someone’s opinion, someone’s real opinion on this subject. The more that people are aware of the issues the more we can address them and correct them. To me that is inspiring.  This article is exciting because we are addressing the issues, the real challenge will happen after people read this article, will they make a change or not. Will the women’s opinions in this article strike a cord and cause change or will it just be ignored?  I guess time will tell.


 

Name:  Michelle Richards            

Company: The Olander Company

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

I think the stigma about our industry is that it is not viewed as a glamourous profession. It’s viewed as a “blue-collar, beneath the pay grade that most would like to be accustomed to, with not much of an exciting future job.

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

The unique qualities I have seen women bring to leadership are support, innovation, adaptability, familial instincts, and emotional intelligence. In my experience, women supporting other women in a team environment bring the highest level of motivation and determination to solve problems. Together, they influence change for the positive while maintaining workplace homeostasis for the greater good of the team and success of the company.  It takes a village. Being that the manufacturing/industrial sector has been predominantly male, women bring about balance.

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

 Strong leaders have helped to pave the path and shine the light on the needs and values of these sectors. Many of these leaders, whether they have been in the industry their entire life or are new recruits, are beginning to offer mentorship and trust. These leaders can see their kids or family members in the roles that women fulfill, and realize the potential and worth they bring to the industry.

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

I feel the lack of education about the industry as a whole has kept women from getting and taking leadership roles. I stumbled into the fastener industry, as some women may have in the past, not knowing of the opportunities that could and would be available to me. I had never attended a job fair where the fastener industry had representatives talking about the many opportunities available, or perhaps I let the stigma steer me from those tables. Yet, there are many opportunities with amazing companies offering creative, fulfilling careers that promote personal growth and directly support the communities they employ.

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

Educate, educate, educate! Educators, parents, and families should be educating, communicating, and increasing awareness of these industries with the young students & women in their lives sooner than high school or college levels.

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

I see women and men getting involved in their community, educating their peers and our youth of all of the opportunities that this industry can offer. Showing them what it can look like by speaking at schools, providing internships, and conducting field trips for students to see firsthand.  It inspires me to emulate their efforts and educate women in my circles and community of these exciting opportunities that are within their reach! Empowerment from empowering others is contagious!