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King’s Hawaiian: Three Woman Challenging Gender Stereotypes in Manufacturing


The manufacturing industry has long been dominated by males, however as work demographics begin to change; woman have been increasingly taking on various roles. In the New York town of Oakwood, one company is at the forefront of promoting equality on the production floor. If the name King’s Hawaiian sounds familiar, that’s because they are responsible for making the delicious sweet rolls found in bakery departments of supermarkets across the country.

The Gainesville Times recently interviewed a few women who work at the plant, one of them being Charlotte Caldwell. Caldwell became the first female production supervisor at this location which helps supply the rolls in the surrounding areas. She mentioned how she starts off her work day by walking down the production line and checking-in with employees. Her experience in operations and passion for food made her the perfect person for this role. Caldwell is looking to challenge the gender stereotypes that are associated with manufacturing. She mentioned to the Gainesville Times, “We have to understand that gender stereotypes can cloud what we think and how we react to people, but that’s not how it should be.”

Caldwell began her career at King’s Hawaiian as a catering helper. After talking with the HR manager about her interests in the company; she became a production floor-woman. Soon after, she was promoted to the supervisor position. Her role consists of ensuring the needs of her employees are being met and meeting with the operations teams. Logistics is everything as the factory is able to produce nearly 70,000 rolls an hour.

In a different part of the factory, Samantha Steele oversees the overall safety and well-being of workers. She began her career at the company as a industrial athletic trainer, and then became a safety manager. Steele focuses on ways for employees on the production floor to reduce aches and pains associated with standing/moving for long periods of time. She wants to make sure employees go home as healthy and happy as they came to work. While Steele acknowledges this is a unique way to get into the manufacturing sector, she loves her job and being able to contribute to employee’s health.

On the production floor, Sandra Imperial reflects on her manufacturing career path. Growing up, she felt pressured to go into roles such as nursing or teaching. However, it wasn’t until her 20’s that Imperial realized her passion was in manufacturing. She started work at King’s Hawaiian as an entry-level packer and then transitioned into a dough divider operator. After gaining an apprenticeship, the company paid for her to go back to school and get on-the-job training. Today, Imperial is an industrial manufacturing technician with over five years of experience.

These three women represent a small fraction of the factory’s employees. However, their impact in the workplace has encouraged people from all over to pursue a career because of their abilities and passions not because of biased stereotypes that limit people’s growth. While gender inequality in the workplace is still being challenged, success stories like these continue to prove the benefits of ensuring everyone gets an equal chance at work.

The Hudson Valley Manufacturing Workforce Center recently received a grant from the Rowley Family Fund for Women and Children to help encourage women and girls throughout the Hudson Valley to pursue a career in manufacturing. To keep manufacturing alive and thriving throughout the region we must inspire and motivate women to enter the field. The Hudson Valley Manufacturing Workforce Center will use the grant money to create videos targeting the young women of the tri-county region in classroom presentations and on social media. These videos will spotlight women in manufacturing at all levels from apprentices to engineers and showcase the many opportunities for success available throughout the region. 

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The Certificate in Manufacturing Leadership Program is Filling Up Fast

The Council of Industry has offered quality supervisory training to its members in the Hudson Valley for over 20 years. The Certificate in Manufacturing Leadership is a comprehensive group of courses that prepares supervisors for their challenging positions at manufacturing facilities. The program is designed to offer particular skill sets through day-long courses designed by manufacturers to help participants meet the challenges of the modern workplace. Participants who complete the required courses are presented with the Certificate in Manufacturing Leadership presented by the Council of Industry and Dutchess Community College. In the last few years, a few classes have gone to waitlists so don’t hesitate, register soon.

All courses are full-day classes (from 9 am – 4:30 pm) and are held at Dutchess Community College, Poughkeepsie, NY with morning coffee and lunch included on site. Though participants are encouraged to complete the course series for the most comprehensive leadership education, the Council welcomes individual course registration as well. The Early Bird Special discount ends tomorrow December 21st. Register and pay online or mail a check to receive the substantial saving from this special offer.

Classes include:

Program Cost

One Day Course Single Member: $200.00 Two or More from Same Company: $175.00 each Single Non-Member: $375.00 Early Bird Discount: $185 (must register and pay before 12/21)

Fundamentals of Leadership Single Member: $400.00 Two or More from Same Company: $350.00 each Single Non-Member: $700.00 Early Bird Discount: $370 (must register and pay before 12/21)

Entire Program Single Member: $1,700.00 Two or More from Same Company: $1,550.00 each Single Non-Member: $2,600.00 Early Bird Discount: $1600 single, $1450 each two or more from the same company (must register and pay before 12/21).

Online registration is available at  If you have questions or need help registering contact Alison Butler ( or call (845) 565-1355.

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