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Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

AAM’s Meghan Hasse reflects on women working in the sector.

In honor of International Women’s Day, which was celebrated on Sunday to honor the economic and social achievements of women around the globe, I want to use this space to recognize all the women out there working in manufacturing. Let’s join together to raise our glasses and toast all the Rosie the Riveters out there, near and far!

In the United States, there are more than 3 million women working in manufacturing. There is a great sense of pride for all women who work these jobs, who are designing, operating and creating great products for our future.

I had the opportunity to meet Sher Harildstad and Sherry Schultz at the United Steelworkers convention in August 2014, for example. Both women spoke passionately from their heart about the importance of manufacturing to them.

Like many others I've interviewed, both agreed that their manufacturing job has provided security for them. I often hear from women like them about how a good manufacturing job provides the opportunity to create a good life for their family, send their children to college, and live the American Dream. As Harildstad told me:

“I’ve been divorced for 30 years, and I was working three, sometimes four jobs to support my family. So when I got that job… I finally had benefits, and enough money to support my family.”

Schultz, meanwhile, told me that she believes Made in America matters not only to her, but to the entire nation.

“Made in America is important to me because not only does it secure jobs, but it also secures the future,” Schultz said. “We want to keep everything made here, American-made, because that produces jobs.”

Women Coming Together

In addition to the steelworkers such as Harildstad and Schultz who I have met, I have had the opportunity to meet others through Women In Manufacturing (WiM), a national organization dedicated to the attraction, retention and advancement of women who are pursuing or have chosen a career in the manufacturing industry. 

There are some great things on the horizon with WiM, including the upcoming 2015 SUMMIT in Minneapolis from Sept. 23 to 25. This two-day event is geared for networking with other women in manufacturing and includes a host of panel discussions and speakers about the advancement of women in manufacturing.  As an AAM field coordinator, I have attended the past two summits in Detroit and the greater Chicagoland area. It’s not often that you meet other women who are inspired by their love for manufacturing. At this summit, we are all under one roof and it makes for great conversations and networking.

The plant tours organized by WiM are highly recommended and personally have been a key highlight of the annual event. The General Motors (GM) Hamtramck Assembly Plant was by far my favorite tour yet. Getting to see the Chevy Volt, Malibu and Impala as they are assembled, painted and polished was pretty neat. The sustainable initiatives that GM is taking for their facility as well as all the solar panels lining the parking lot outside give a modern new-age feel when walking into the factory.  

I loved seeing the smiles on the workers as we ventured through their workplace. The folks at GM offered “Ride and Drive,” an opportunity to test drive the vehicles — with no sales pitch included! 

I look forward to the upcoming conference in Minnesota and all the wonderful women in manufacturing that I will meet. WiM also hosts regional events such as roundtables and luncheons throughout the year if you can’t make it to the annual event.