Best practices panel: attraction, retention, and advancement of women in manufacturing

Lisa Blais, Christie Fleming, Natalie Panek, Diana Peters, and Karen Norheim comprised the 2014 Women in Manufacturing Summit best practices panel, which covered topics on recruiting and retaining women in the manufacturing industry.

09/30/2014


Advice on recruiting and retaining women in the manufacturing industry was provided in a panel discussion at the 2014 Women in Manufacturing Summit.

Meet the panelists:

  • Lisa Blais, North American industrial practice leader, Egon Zehnder
  • Christie Fleming, senior vice president of marketing, Chicken of the Sea
  • Natalie Panek, mission systems engineer (MTS), MDA Space Missions
  • Diana Peters, director, Symbol Training Institute
  • Karen Norheim, executive vice president, American Crane Equipment Corp.

Lisa Blais, Christie Fleming, Natalie Panek, Diana Peters, and Karen Norheim at the 2014 Women in Manufacturing Summit best practices panel. Courtesy: Anisa Samarxhiu, Joy Chang, CFE MediaQuestion for Lisa Blais: What is your experience in the recruiting side of the business? What are the challenges when recruiting women in manufacturing?

Blais: I've had 20 years of experience working in manufacturing companies. As a recruiter, I found out that 99% of the time our clients would want a more diversified workforce. It is good that they recognize the value of women in manufacturing. However, they usually give out very narrow job specifications that only men can fill. We strive to educate our clients to look at potential rather than just experience. Some women may have took a few years of their lives to take care of their family, give birth, and thus they don't have that much experience as their counterparts. Hiring managers thus need to focus more on women's leadership, confidence, and curiosity, and broaden their career projections. Male hiring managers often have an unconscious bias. It is natural that people would want to hire people that look like them. We need to make them aware of these unconscious biases and persuade them to see different challenges that women can take on.

Question for Natalie Panek: As a young female engineer, how do you think we can get women like you to be interested in this profession?

Panek: I think the most important thing is to have role models and mentors to look up to. There are very few role models in the media today. Last time when I was doing a speech, I asked young females about whom they identify as role models today? A lot of them know Kim Kardashian, but not successful career women. We need our media to show more women engineers and scientists to inspire young girls.

Another thing is to educate young girls on how to fail. Use me as an example. I grew up in West Canada with the dream of working in NASA. Every year, the government gives scholarship to one young Canadian to be an intern in NASA. I applied for it four times and failed four times. Finally, I just picked up the phone and called NASA to recommend myself. I finally got the internship.

Question for Karen Norheim: Talk about women in manufacturing. How and why is this a wise business decision?

Norheim: We need to think of it from a problem solving perspective. To problem-solve, a company needs many points of view. Women offer a valuable point of view. Manufacturers need to have diversity in order to have a competitive edge.

Question for Diana Peters: Can you talk about your journey and transition into your current role?

Peters: I am one of those people who never expected to work in manufacturing but ended up having a successful career in this industry. I grew up with my dad working in the manufacturing industry, but I did not go to school for STEM programs. One day when I was having dinner with my dad, I learned the problem of the skills gap in manufacturing and how my dad was unable to find skilled workers to work for him. I realized that I can use my skill set to help with the situation, so we started the advanced engineering training institute.

Question for Christie Fleming: As a vice president at your company, how do you maintain work-life balance?

Fleming: A lot of the women working in industry desire flexibility with their schedules. Actually, flexibility is the number one reason why women would leave or stay in a company. For me, it's more of a daily choice. I can never accomplish everything. If I accomplish everything at work, I miss something at home; if I complete everything at home, I might miss something at work. I came to the realization that there is something that you just have to let go and don't be too hard on yourself.

General Q&A session

Q: What are the challenges of retaining women in manufacturing once they have been hired?

A: A lot of women get stuck in middle management because of a lack of flexibility. Women may lack crucial experience such as working overseas and having the flexibility to do so. Women need to also take ownership of their careers. They can't expect people to simply recognize their merits; they must actively seek promotions.

Intentionally engage in interesting and challenging projects to get exposure and experience. Actively subvert stereotypical gender biases by sitting in a position of power in the boardroom, not being the one to do the secretarial functions in a meeting, and voicing your opinions. Be confident. A man can walk into a room looking down on his phone and still be considered as confident. Women need to prove ourselves since there are more stereotypes imposed on us.

Q: How do you create a stronger network for women in manufacturing?

A: Mentoring is a great way to create a strong network. Young professionals should seek out both male and female mentors. Sometimes the male mentors can offer different opportunities to their mentees. We need more exposure of women in manufacturing roles in the media as well. Perceptions within manufacturing have to change to attract more women and a new generation to this industry.

- Anisa Samarxhiu and Joy Chang are digital project managers, CFE Media, asamarxhiu@cfemedia.com and jchang@cfemedia.com.  



Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2017 Top Plant.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
February 2018
2017 Product of the Year winners, retrofitting a press, IMTS and Hannover Messe preview, natural refrigerants, testing steam traps
March 2018
SCCR, 2018 Maintenance study, and VFDs in a washdown environment.
Jan/Feb 2018
Welding ergonomics, 2017 Salary Survey, and surge protection
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
February 2018
Focus on power systems, process safety, electrical and power systems, edge computing in the oil & gas industry
December 2017
Product of the Year winners, Pattern recognition, Engineering analytics, Revitalize older pump installations
April 2018
Implementing a DCS, stepper motors, intelligent motion control, remote monitoring of irrigation systems
February 2018
Setting internal automation standards
December 2017
PID controllers, Solar-powered SCADA, Using 80 GHz radar sensors

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Maintenance & Safety
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
Industrial Analytics
This digital report explains how plant engineers and subject matter experts (SME) need support for time series data and its many challenges.
IIoT: Operations & IT
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me