Stepping Up to Inspire Women to Fill the Workforce Gap in Manufacturing
Manufacturers have job openings and great career paths. Women account for only 27% of the manufacturing workforce. The Manufacturing Institute’s STEP Ahead awards are designed to inspire women to bridge the gap.
On April 20, 2017, at the Ronald Regan Building in Washington, D.C., the Manufacturing Institute honored 100 Honorees and 30 Emerging Leaders with the STEP Ahead Award. Aneesa Muthana, President and Owner of Pioneer Service Inc., took her place among other leaders from across the country who have set examples for women in a field dominated by men.
Women have been making significant contributions to manufacturing in the United States for generations, but still only comprise 27% of the manufacturing workforce. Ms. Muthana, who started her career as a pre-teen in her parents grinding shop, embraced the opportunity to run her own manufacturing company in her early 20’s. Since then, her vision and passion have made a difference in the lives of employees, customers, suppliers, her family and a large network of friends. She is always “paying it forward” by helping young people envision a brighter future for themselves by considering manufacturing as a path to success.
“We are makers. The process of bringing people together to MAKE something that will go on to serve a greater purpose fuels my passion and fills my days.” Aneesa Muthana, President & Owner of Pioneer Service Inc.
Ms. Muthana considers educating the next generation about the benefits of manufacturing careers as vital to the growth of the industry. The Manufacturing Institute estimates that over 3.5 million jobs will need to be filled in manufacturing over the next ten years, and already Ms. Muthana’s company, Pioneer Service Inc., feels the pinch in finding qualified, interested candidates to learn the art of making machined parts. As both a female leader and a manufacturing employer, she knows first-hand the urgency of connecting women to satisfying careers like Pioneer Service can provide.
The STEP Ahead program was inspired by the need to fill the labor gap by recognizing and supporting women ambassadors like Ms. Muthana. Each awardee has collaborated to find better ways to reach the next generation by talking about their own experiences. At a breakfast discussion the morning after the gala event, they discussed how they got into manufacturing and their career paths. Each shared the “ah-ha moment” when they realized manufacturing might be right for them. For example, Jennifer Briggs, an engineer at Proctor & Gamble said “When I was a freshman in high school on a field trip a caring teacher asked me if I had thought about becoming an engineer. He then asked what I thought an engineer was, and I said Engineers drive trains, of course! His sensitive explanation of my misconception was a life-changer for me.”
The number one reason students choose manufacturing is because of personal experience and exposure such as Ms. Briggs received that day. Simply put, women who have chosen careers in manufacturing make a difference when they share their stories. That is why each STEP Ahead honorees signs a pledge card to:
- Leverage their strengths for personal development
- Engage and/or mentor young women/girls
- Advocate as an ambassador for the manufacturing industry
- Develop their network to generate ideas and share best practices
For example, Donna Bossman, a Director of Global Engineering with Ingersoll Rand, shared the same passion as Ms. Muthana and many others, stating “I love seeing my work applied to a product and impacting lives. From concept to commercialized product, to seeing it at Home Depot or in the car I drive, it is deeply gratifying to see how what I do makes a difference.” This is the kind of example and passion young women can connect with to help them make intelligent, informed choices about their career paths. The STEP Ahead awards program gave each of the women a chance to step back from their daily jobs and reconnect with the reason that they love their careers, and consider how they can continue to help the next generation of female manufacturing leaders.