An Impact That Matters: Women Who Run the Manufacturing Industry

When hearing the words “plumber,” “electrician,” or “engineer,” the first image that comes to my mind, even as a woman, is a male professional. Historically, men have held the majority of jobs in manufacturing, but women are catching up. As gathered by a 2017 Deloitte/Manufacturing Institute study of women in manufacturing, women made up 29% of the manufacturing workforce in 2016 and nearly half (47%) of the working population.

It’s clear that women represent a large population of untapped manufacturing talent. Many are breaking the glass ceiling and rising into leadership roles within the field. The entire industry is coming together to encourage more women to join the ranks. Praising the women who break boundaries and excel in their fields is one great way to do so.

Empowering women in manufacturing

For example, PMI member Brasscraft Manufacturing Company announced that it awarded its 2018 Robert M. Zell Award to Director of Continuous Improvement Sarah Jones. This award was created 28 years ago to recognize employees who deliver the highest quality and innovative products to Brasscraft’s customers. According to an article in Contractor magazine, Jones has been a key driver of Brasscraft’s continuous improvement (CI) culture and has used CI as a tool to drive many improvements into the business.

The EHS Daily Advisor’s Safety Standout Awards recognize companies and individuals who excel in making their workplaces safe. This year, the Young Safety Professional Excellence Award was awarded to Haws Corporation Quality and Compliance Manager Melanie Mayer. She successfully developed and executed safety and compliance procedures during her four-year tenure at Haws, a PMI member that manufactures hydration equipment and customized emergency response products. Without innovative and forward-thinking professionals like her, a strong standard for effective safety culture throughout the industry would not exist.

Other women from PMI member companies have made important contributions. Mariana Nicolae of Sloan Valve Company was recently recognized by PMI for her a long and dedicated career full of contributions to PMI. And, as a former member of PMI’s Board of Directors, Carol Baricovich, retired director of global brand communications, government relations, and marketing and business development at InSinkErator, brought her unique expertise to the table to help further PMI’s mission.

Furthering women’s interests by working in alliances

PMI works closely with its ally the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) to represent the interests of the industry on many fronts. NAM established the Manufacturing Institute as its social impact arm and to drive programs and research to promote modern manufacturing and jumpstart new approaches to growing manufacturing talent.

The Manufacturing Institute’s “STEP Ahead” program was started to “recognize the contributions of women to manufacturing…and to shine a light on the untapped opportunities for women in a rewarding field.” BorgWarner Material and Logistics Manager Lilian Sustaita was one of 130 women who received a Woman in Manufacturing STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Ahead Award from the Manufacturing Institute.

Empowering Women in Industry shares a similar vision, existing to connect and educate women who will inspire the next generation of leaders. Empowering Women in Industry gives women exposure to several fields – namely STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) – to direct them to the career path that is right for them. In addition, they host an awards ceremony each year so that “empowered women may empower women,” and give out awards such as Mentor of the Year, Engineer of the Year, and more.

Engaging the next generation

Those in manufacturing are seeing very positive changes in the industry’s attitude toward recruiting and advancing women. According to the Manufacturing Institute, 2.7 million baby boomers will retire by 2025, leaving 2 million manufacturing jobs unfulfilled. To get ahead of this projection, manufacturers are going to have to get creative with how they acquire new talent to develop their workforce. This means that women – a vastly underrepresented group in the workforce – have the potential to make up a major part of the next generation of workers.

But, how do we acquire the next generation of female workers? For a career in manufacturing or in the skilled trades, students who develop STEM skills are at the top of the list; emphasizing these fields in education will spark the interest in continuing to pursue these fields as a career.

Take, for example, a woman who is approaching the end of an apprenticeship with Chicago Journeyman Plumbers Local 130; her name is Tisa Carter, and she is a member of one of the larger plumbing unions in the U.S. Carter is a graduate of Proviso East High School in Maywood, Ill., and hopes to set an example for women who want to follow in her footsteps into a career in trades, says an article in The Village Free Press. After seeing a Facebook ad for Chicago Women in Trades, Carter became interested in the organization, which gives people opportunities to try different trades like plumbing, electrical, and more.

In short, formal and informal apprenticeships and improving the visibility of women leaders who serve as role models can be the most influential methods to help manufacturers attract and attain women. To forge ahead, top-down support for women will be crucial to their effectiveness in the field.

Learn more about careers in plumbing manufacturing, as well as opportunities available through PMI member companies, at