Women in Manufacturing

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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Inspirational Female Leadership in the Hudson Valley

 

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

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The Need for Women in Manufacturing

 

Since March is Women’s History Month we wanted to take this opportunity to talk about women in manufacturing. Women first began entering the workforce during World War I when a large number of jobs were vacated by men who had gone to fight in the war. There was a shortage of workers and an increasing number of jobs being created as part of the war effort. This led to the rise of women entering the workforce, more specifically the manufacturing industry.

Today women represent nearly half of the total US workforce (47%), yet they comprise less than a third (27%) of manufacturing jobs. “In nearly 100 years, there has been a meager 8% increase in the number of female employees in the manufacturing industry. Not the kind of stellar advancement anyone would like to see.”

Currently over 32% of women switch out of STEM degree programs in college, only 30% of women who earn bachelor’s degree in engineering are still working in engineering 20 years later and of the women who have left the engineering profession 30% cite organizational climate and lack of mentorship as the reason.

There are a variety of reason for these statistics but Women in Manufacturing (WIM) conducted several surveys that found very few respondents listing manufacturing as a field that offers opportunities for women, and only about half could recall a manufacturing company they would consider a leader in attracting and promoting women. After seeing these results its not surprising that women aren’t entering the manufacturing field. However, there are steps manufacturers can take to make a difference.

The negative perception of manufacturing jobs has contributed greatly to the skills gap, but if that attitude can be changed it will be beneficial to the entire industry. Working directly with young high school and college level students to change those inaccurate judgements about manufacturing can make these jobs more appealing to young men and women. Speaking with educators and parents about the high-quality, good paying jobs available in manufacturing can help break down some of these stereotypes.

Mentors can also be a major factor in attracting women to the industry. “According to “Why So Few?” by the American Association of University Women in 2010, ‘Mentorship is often cited as a key strategy for exciting, supporting, and keeping students, young scientists, and engineers in the fields of STEM. This is particularly true for individuals who haven’t historically participated in these areas—such as young women and underrepresented minorities.’”

Creating opportunities for young girls to get hand-on experience in the STEM fields can also make an impact. Increasing the amount of positive exposure when girls are young will increase their knowledge of opportunities in manufacturing later on. Participating in events like National Manufacturing Day can be instrumental in showcasing the benefits of a career in manufacturing.

Younger generations also value opportunities to make a difference. Many jobs within the manufacturing industry have that potential. Author of 5 Ways to Increase the Number of Women in the Manufacturing Industry, Pamela Kan, said “Talking with the engineers at my company, they have all said – many times – that what they most love about the manufacturing industry is the ability to take their schooling and innate interests and make a difference by creating something new that can help a customer.”

We need women in the manufacturing industry and these small but impactful actions can make a huge difference. Changing the conversation at an early age and exposing young girls to STEM can make a huge difference down the line.

For more details you can read the full article here.

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