Philicia Weaver, Director Global Initiatives at Blount International, Inc.

#WiMHearHerStory ,

Philicia Weaver, Director Global Initiatives at Blount International, Inc.
#WiMHearHerStory | @WomeninMFG

At Women in Manufacturing, we are committed to supporting women in the manufacturing sector. We firmly believe that mentorship and community-building will help attract and retain women in manufacturing. As part of our mission, we feature on our blog the stories of women we admire who are currently working in manufacturing. The following is the latest installment of our "Hear Her Story" series.

Please tell our readers a little bit about your job and what your work looks like every day.

I work at Blount International, Inc., a global manufacturer and marketer of replacement parts, equipment and accessories for consumers and professionals operating primarily in forestry, lawn and garden, and farming. We have more than 4,000 team members worldwide and sell products in more than 115 countries.

As Director, Global Initiatives, I’m responsible for project management, change management and strategic workforce planning. My job offers a lot of variety, which I love. On any given day, I might be working on one of the company’s initiatives, facilitating a talent review, or training a team on change management.

How did you arrive at your current position? What attracted you to a career in manufacturing?

I had worked primarily in the service industry up until about five years ago when someone I used to work with recommended that I apply for a position at Blount. I started as the organizational development manager. Two years into the position, I pitched the idea of creating a project management office (PMO) to accelerate the execution of our projects. Blount’s CEO, Josh Collins, and president, David Willmott, agreed and created my current role. I really appreciate working at a company where leaders listen to and support the ideas of team members.

At WiM, much of our work is dedicated to refuting outdated stereotypes about the manufacturing sector: stereotypes like the workplaces are dirty and dangerous and that the field and skills required are a better fit for men. Have you encountered stereotypes like these in your education or career and how did you overcome them?
Seeing is believing. I probably had the same stereotypes you mentioned before working at Blount, but it was only because I hadn’t experienced a manufacturing environment before. I’ve been really impressed with the consistency of cleanliness at all of our locations. Leaders want a safe, clean working environment for team members, and it shows.

Although women are less represented in manufacturing than in the service industry, they hold positions in every part of our business. In fact, when I pulled the data in 2014, I found that the largest number of female leaders at Blount were in these traditionally male-led departments: 1) Supply chain, 2) Finance, and 3) Manufacturing (HR was fourth). 

Research shows that women, especially women in STEM fields, do better if they have a mentor. Has mentorship played any role in your career?

Absolutely—I’m a strong believer in mentoring programs. In addition to participating in several of them, I’ve built mentoring programs at some of the companies I’ve worked at. I’m also really interested in sponsorship programs and informal mentoring.

In a sponsorship program, the higher-level person takes a more active role in the junior person’s career by creating developmental opportunities (e.g. attending key meetings, stretch assignments). At Blount, we’re in the process of creating a sponsorship program for female leaders. Our executive team are strong advocates for inclusion and developing talent, and this is just one way they live that value.

I use informal mentoring to learn about specific subjects. For example, I’m currently interested in mindfulness in the workplace because the research on it is so compelling. To learn more, I’ve been talking to people who have implemented it at their companies to see what works, what doesn’t, and the different forms it can take.

One of the key findings in WiM’s survey is that there is significant overlap between what young women want in careers and the attributes of careers in manufacturing today. But the survey also found that, too often, young women are not aware of the opportunities available in manufacturing. What do you think can be done to spread the word to women about career options in modern manufacturing?

If you’re in a leadership position, you should always be recruiting. Finding and nurturing future talent is the best long-term investment that leaders can make. Here are some ideas:

  • Professional organizations—Whether you’re in engineering, finance, supply chain, HR, etc., there are several professional organizations in your field. Going to events and networking not only builds your skills, but also gives you the opportunity to spread the word about career opportunities at your company.

 

  • Expand searches to the untapped job market—If your candidate pool for a job opening only includes those people who are actively seeking a job, you’re missing out on a very large population of great people. Use social media (e.g. LinkedIn) and your network to find the best people for the job and encourage them to apply. In the 2010 Harvard Business Review article, “Are You a High Potential?” a study found that “1 in 4 high potential employees believe they will be working for another company in a year.” It usually only takes a nudge to encourage someone to apply for a job at your company.

 

  • Extend your recruiting timeline—If you wait for a job opening to recruit, you’re too late. Building relationships with people, professional organizations, community partnerships and educational institutions takes time, but pays off with a much better candidate pool, including more female candidates.

 

  • Signal your interest—Companies can attract more women by their actions. For example, set up scholarships for women with schools in the communities you work in, have female employees make recommendations on company policies, show images and videos of female employees in your company materials (especially your career site), etc. The McKinsey & Company study, Women in the Workplace, is also a great resource.

 

Our survey also found that the majority of women in manufacturing today would recommend the sector to young women considering career options. Would you recommend a career in manufacturing? And, if so, why?

Yes, 100%. The biggest reason is that manufacturing is a great field for women. But there’s also another reason—I’ve done a lot of career coaching over the years, and one piece of advice I’ve given is to consider going “against the grain” to stand out. For example, if someone’s Myers Briggs type is ISTJ (quiet, serious, thorough, and dependable), the typical careers they gravitate to are accounting, information services, etc., but what if this type went into sales? Their customers might appreciate their listening skills and attention to details. In other words, if they’re good at what they do, they could really stand out in a group of extroverts. Likewise, women can stand out in a male-dominated environments because of the skills and perspective they bring. 

Why did you decide to join Women in Manufacturing? How do you personally find value in WiM membership?

Blount strives to be an employer-of-choice for high performers and our senior leadership team has been steadfast advocates of attracting, retaining and developing women. I have recently been asked to contribute to some of the work they’re doing, so I’m learning as much as possible about the topic. When I was doing my research, Women in Manufacturing quickly came to the forefront for its data, education and networking opportunities. I joined just last year, and I’ve already learned a lot. I’m grateful to have an organization like Women in Manufacturing as a resource, and I’m looking forward to having greater involvement in the future.