Rebecca Lynn White, Director at Western Reserve Partners LLC

#WiMHearHerStory ,

Rebecca Lynn White, Director at Western Reserve Partners LLC
#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.

As head of our firm’s capital raising process, I assist companies in raising debt and minority equity to fund growth and effect shareholder transitions.  I regularly meet with capital providers ranging from commercial banks and business development companies to mezzanine funds and private equity groups to keep up to date on current trends in the capital markets, including pricing, structure and terms.  These conversations provide me with valuable insight to assist my clients in raising the appropriate capital necessary for them to achieve their growth strategy and succession plans.  Often my clients are seeking growth capital to launch a new product line, build a new facility or complete an acquisition, so I work with them to build a financial model to determine the capital structure that best meets their needs and then approach lenders/investors who can provide the type of capital desired.  I can also assist shareholders in M&A, whether they are buying a business or selling their ownership stake.  My focus is on manufacturing companies and has included a variety of industries, including metals, plastics, materials, packaging and food and beverage.  As a result, a great portion of my time is spent at my clients’ facilities getting familiar with their businesses, including their manufacturing processes, supply chain and customer base. 

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

Growing up in northeast Ohio, manufacturing is everywhere, so I was introduced to it at a young age when I would go visit my dad at work.  He was a pattern maker who created wooden products to customer specifications which were utilized to build the tooling for plastic blow molds.  I studied accounting and mathematics in my undergraduate studies, so decided to combine my two degrees in graduate school, where I received a master’s degree in operations research.  During my graduate program, I was introduced to operations management and realized the application and importance of my studies in the manufacturing sector.  Following graduate school, I pursued a career in finance, but one that enables me the opportunity to work closely with a variety of manufacturing companies.  I started my career in investment banking as an analyst in the Mergers & Acquisitions group at McDonald Investments/KeyBanc Capital Markets and joined my current firm upon its inception a few years later, where I have worked my way up to lead one of our practice groups. 

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?

As I have worked with numerous manufacturing companies throughout my career, I have been able to tour a variety of manufacturing facilities, most of which dispel these stereotypes.  In fact, several of my clients actually have workforces comprised of more women than men.  In addition, most of the facilities are well-lit, clean and very organized with efficient product flow.  One of my clients, a manufacturer of hard and soft tool metal components, actually focuses on making their facility feel like a college campus to appeal to their high-tech customers’ purchasing agents, many of whom are young professionals not used to the dirty, dingy world of manufacturing.  They installed flat screen TV screens throughout the facility with scrolling announcements and production statistics, upgraded their lighting systems and keep their equipment and facility freshly painted, which I believe is more typical of a manufacturing facility these days.      

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

I have been fortunate to have several great mentors throughout my career, both women and men.  Their advice has been extremely valuable to me as I navigate my way through the male-dominated career of investment banking.  It has been helpful to me to have mentors in a variety of different careers, as well as in different phases of their career.  Some of the best advice has come from people outside my line of work, as they are able to provide a more objective viewpoint.  In addition, it is helpful to have mentors who are my peers, in addition to those more senior to me, as they can often relate better to certain situations.  One of the best pieces of advice I have received from a mentor was to never be afraid to ask for something you want.  The worst that can happen is you are told no, but you will never get what you want if you don’t ever make the ask.   

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?

I have been fortunate to have several great mentors throughout my career, both women and men.  Their advice has been extremely valuable to me as I navigate my way through the male-dominated career of investment banking.  It has been helpful to me to have mentors in a variety of different careers, as well as in different phases of their career.  Some of the best advice has come from people outside my line of work, as they are able to provide a more objective viewpoint.  In addition, it is helpful to have mentors who are my peers, in addition to those more senior to me, as they can often relate better to certain situations.  One of the best pieces of advice I have received from a mentor was to never be afraid to ask for something you want.  The worst that can happen is you are told no, but you will never get what you want if you don’t ever make the ask.   

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?
The recent manufacturing renaissance in the U.S. has definitely increased the awareness and appeal of manufacturing in our country.  I would definitely encourage young women to pursue a career in manufacturing as it provides a very fulfilling and challenging career and we should not leave all of these opportunities to men.  Women can and should thrive in manufacturing because we have so much to bring to the industry, which can help continue to boost our country’s output and position in the world of manufacturing.