As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we reflect on inspirational leaders who have had an impact right here in the Hudson Valley. HV MFG sat down with Gretchen Zierick who is the president and CEO of Zierick Manufacturing Corporation. Zierick Manufacturing was created in 1919 by Ziericks’s grandfather who started making metal stampings. During the Second World War, production had ramped up to meet the increasing demands within the electronics industry. Zierick’s father took over operations in 1950 until 2000 when she became president.
Zierick began working for the company at the age of 16 as an assistant to the receptionist. Throughout the years, she climbed through the ranks with the determination to eventually lead the company. As president, Zierick quickly began to make improvements to the company starting with the culture. She explained how employees were used to completing tasks using the same model without many changes. Zierick wanted the feedback from workers to come up with new ideas and solutions to increase production while keeping the quality clients have come to expect.
Zierick encountered some challenges that needed to be addressed including government taxes and regulations, which can be burdensome and complex for any industry. She also explained the need for more skilled Tool & Die Makers in the Hudson Valley as the average age of the ones employed are around 60. While challenges come and go, Zierick is also focused on the opportunities ahead. Currently the company is expanding to Europe where exports counts towards 14 percent of sales. In addition, patented products have given the company an advantage over competitors and has fueled innovation.
When asked about the ideal worker for the company, Zierick emphasized the importance for someone to care both about the company as well as their co-workers. Enthusiasm and creativity are needed to ensure the company continues to grow and innovate for years to come. As president of the company for 19 years now, Zierick is proud to be a part of a handful of women CEOs’ in the manufacturing sector. When asked about her experiences, she mentioned how being a woman in a traditionally male sector has its advantages and disadvantages. “On the one hand, no one forgets me— I am one of three women in the PMA (Precision Metalforming Association) of New York and New Jersey, and the first female president of that group. On the other hand, while there’s not exactly an ‘old boy’s network,’ there are certain customs and habits that remain in place that can be perceived as obstacles.” Zierick encourages young women looking to pursue a career in manufacturing to get involved with the Women in Manufacturing Association. She attends their conference every year and has found it to be very valuable.
Gretchen Zierick is just one of many inspirational women who have made a positive impact on people through leadership. As society begins to head towards gender equality, more young women will be inspired to follow the example of Zierick and other influential female leaders.
The full interview with Gretchen Zierick can be found here.