What Happens When Women Work Together

By: Allison Grealis, President, Women in Manufacturing (WiM)

Women’s History Month is perhaps my favorite month of the year. Each March, every major media outlet seems determined, if only for a short time, to tell the stories that usually go untold. In the last 30 days, outlets from Industry Week to Forbes have published headlines like, “Women in Manufacturing and the Role Models Who Inspire Them.”

I’m sure I’m not alone in enjoying these tales of valor, women who made their way in the WWII workforce and left their mark on the industry forever. These stories are important for their ability to showcase women’s long history of talent and leadership and inspire today’s women working in traditionally male-dominated industries.

The only bad thing about Women’s History Month is that it is just one month. At the end of March, the spotlight is turned away from women and on to other topics. And that’s a problem. Women in our industry deserve to see role models all year round.

It was that mission – shedding a constant light on the important role of women in the manufacturing industry – that inspired the start of Women in Manufacturing seven years ago.

One of things that has pleasantly surprised me since starting WiM, is the spirit of collaboration I’ve encountered. At our founding and in the years since, we have worked with many industry organizations with rich histories and strong membership bases. Many of them embraced our efforts and lent great insight as we worked to build WiM into the only national association dedicated to the year-round support of women in manufacturing.

So, this year, we’re going further. Several weeks after the conclusion of this year’s Women’s History Month, WiM will be starting up a new project. In May, we are launching the Coalition for Women in Industry, a collaborative group of industry leaders dedicated to attracting, retaining and advancing women in industry.

Manufacturing and related industries are at a critical juncture. We need more women to fill open skilled positions and assume leadership roles. The challenges we face and the opportunities we hope to seize are too great for any one organization to tackle alone. By combining efforts, we can combat current inequities in manufacturing and create lasting change. Independently, our voices are strong. But, together, we’re unstoppable.

In addition to WiM, top organizations and associations including the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT), the Manufacturing Leadership Council, the Natural Gas Supply Association (NGSA), the Precision Metalforming Association (PMA), the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) have already signed on to be a part of this movement. All of our organizations have unique strengths and experiences and sharing these will allow us to more powerfully tackle big projects such as changing the public perception of manufacturing, recruiting talent, and ensuring that women have equal opportunity for promotion and advancement.

The inaugural meeting of the Coalition will take place in Washington, D.C., on May 8-9. We’ll begin with a networking reception the evening of Tuesday, May 8, and our meeting will take place on Wednesday, May 9. For the full agenda please visit http://www.womeninmanufacturing.org/events/coalition. Registration for the event is still open and a limited number of spots are available.

Melinda Gates says, “Women speaking up for themselves and for those around them is the strongest force we have to change the world. We’ll be speaking up for women’s history and our future." Let’s make the light last longer than March.