Women Leaders Encourage More Women to Succeed in Manufacturing

Leading women in the manufacturing industry work to inspire other women to explore jobs in the field and to strive for leadership positions in their companies.

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According to the Census Bureau, women make up about one third of the U.S. manufacturing workforce, and more than half of those women work in sales or office positions. Some women, like Allison Grealis, president of the Women in Manufacturing trade association, are dedicated to seeing those numbers grow. Since 2011, when Women in Manufacturing was founded, the number of women in manufacturing has inched upwards from 27 percent to 29 percent of the workforce today, Grealis says. Though it’s a small increase, Grealis attributes at least some of this upward momentum to training and education that is offered by her organization.  

Grealis has two goals for the future of women in the field: more women in manufacturing and women obtaining higher positions in the field. From annual summits and networking events, to online networking services and training resources, Women in Manufacturing offers its almost 1,100 individual members and 51 corporate members a supportive community and resources in an effort to achieve both of these goals.

“Community is critical. That was one of the reasons we got started, was to provide that community that wasn’t happening organically,” Grealis says. “Because there were fewer numbers of women in manufacturing, they were often the minority at events like trade conferences and trade shows, so we feel it’s critical to have this community to help women connect and to have that opportunity to learn from one another, to support one another.”

Going forward, Grealis hopes to empower women to become leaders and to change the stereotypes surrounding women in the field. “We as an organization are working nationally to try to improve the public perception of manufacturing,” Grealis says. “Too often, parents, students and career counselors don’t realize what modern manufacturing looks like. Much of what we do as an organization is on the marketing and promotion piece, telling people what modern manufacturing looks like.”

Griselda Abousleman, chairperson of Women in Manufacturing and vice president of ISC Fluid Management at Ingersoll Rand, is a leader for women in manufacturing herself. With degrees in industrial engineering and business administration from Stanford University and Arizona State University, Abousleman started her career in the aerospace sector. “I must say those first years were increasingly fun as we experienced numerous learning opportunities and impressive results at the same time,” she says. She built a career around her passion for lean manufacturing, working to create and deploy lean manufacturing practices at a variety of global organizations.

But Abousleman recognizes the challenges that women often face in a field where they are often the only females on a team, and she is passionate about helping young women succeed like she did. “Being a leading woman in manufacturing means that I can inspire and influence others to follow in those steps that may appear more challenging than other options,” Abousleman says. “If I can make a difference in just one or two young girls’ lives, it makes all of life’s hard work worthwhile.”

To aspiring women in manufacturing, she says, “My advice is to follow your passions, even if it seems that there are few like you in the industry. In the end, if it’s truly your passion, you will blossom and won’t even notice that you’re the only woman on the team. Find an inclusive and engaging culture in order to enjoy it to the fullest.”

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