WiM Summit 2016

Last month, a couple of our staff had the pleasure of attending the Women in Manufacturing Summit in Nashville TN.

The conference was packed with engaging speakers and breakouts for everyone to take part in, tours to different types of manufacturing plants, including General Motors, Bridgestone, Lochinvar, Nissan and The Tennessee Bun Company.


There were women from all aspects of manufacturing at the Summit – from people working hands on with tooling and robotics, to teachers in STEM programs, and lawyers for industries in manufacturing. Some big companies in attendance included: Amazon, UPS, Etsy, Coca-Cola, Trumpf, etc. It was great to hear a new perspective from a different group of women. Most of the women had the common detonator – how to be successful in a manufacturing industry which mainly consists of men, and the importance of women in leadership roles.

Marsha Blackburn, the U.S. Congressman for the Nashville district, kicked of speakers for the conference. She talked about how in TN there is a 46.7 billion manufacturing output and how the state of TN contributes to 2.6 trillion nationally in manufacturing.

Another speaker, Amy Elliot, a young research scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, spoke about Additive Manufacturing. In her short career, this woman already has two patents, has been on two TVs shows and really is an inspiration for women trying to make it in the manufacturing field.
Her advice to anyone interested in additive manufacturing would be to buy a 3d printer kit on ebay, and if you can put that together then you can start your journey with additive manufacturing.

She was on a TV reality show called The Big Brain Theory in May 2013 which she placed second on the show. Here is the link to the trailer.
Wamwan Waichungo, VP of Global Scientific & Regulatory Affairs at the Coca-Cola Company, talked about the small amount of women in STEM (26%) and wonders what causes this low number. Is it culture, role models, bias, or something else?

She also provided this staggering statistic:

It posed the question, why do so many women who study STEM end up in careers outside of Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math? Is it because there aren’t enough positions for them? Is it because men are being hired over women in those roles? She believes the real answer is because a STEM degree gives anyone good fundamental skills. People who study STEM learn a skillset that can be applied across an entire business and in many professions!

The conference also featured roundtable discussions. What we found to be rather astonishing was how many women did have mentors, who were mentors and what roles those women play in their company. We found that most women had male mentors. No one at either of our tables had a mentor that was a woman in manufacturing.

WIM has developed their own Leadership Lab for Women in Manufacturing, which provides executive education and training to individuals in mid-to-high level management roles in manufacturing careers. They hosted a panel discussion of women who just completed the class.

The moderator, Kathleen Buse, spoke about the Importance of Leadership Development and of Women in Leadership roles. Forty-seven percent of the workforce in the U.S. consists of women. Twenty-nine percent of those are in manufacturing. She says persistence and self-confidence are traits needed to succeed in a male dominated field. And the Leadership Lab helps improve upon those skills.

One of the panelists spoke about the differences between how women and men are perceived when they speak up at work on a topic. But she also learned the importance of continuing to add value by voicing her opinion, and different approaches to force herself into conversations without coming across bossy. And another panelist actually left the class and asked for a promotion, and got it. They also talked about the importance of leadership and how to get men to work together.

Overall, the WiM Summit was a great experience to meet all of these wonderful women from our industry in a multitude of roles. It was amazing to see just how many kinds of manufacturing industries there are! And how many women are enthusiastic about this industry.
We love the workshops that they are doing to help empower women in a male dominated industry, and hopefully help them move forward in their careers. It’s exciting to know that the face of manufacturing is evolving!

Next year’s Summit is in Hartford, Connecticut. We hope to host a tour of our facility and be part of the planning committee for speakers and events.

Women in Manufacturing features student, professional, and corporate level memberships. You can sign up here.