Women in Manufacturing

A Letter from Our CEO

I am accustomed to being the only woman in the room — when I was a vice president at Oregon Iron Works, when I was the CEO of United Streetcar, and even when I was a top appointee at the U.S. Commerce Department.

 

While women make up almost half of the American workforce, they hold just 29% of manufacturing jobs, according to 2018 U.S. labor statistics. And that number declines as the job responsibilities rise.

 

Given my background, I often am asked how I got involved in and rose to a leadership role in manufacturing, and what the industry should do to shrink its gender gap.

 

I grew up in a blue collar family on Chicago’s South Side. My grandfather worked at Chicago Vierling Steel; my extended family had jobs as plumbers and electricians. Working in the trades was respected. I was never pushed to become a doctor or lawyer, and I was never told that being a plumber was a failure.

 

I consider myself lucky in that regard. A 2017 Manufacturing Institute/Deloitte survey of 600 women in manufacturing found that only 42% of them would encourage their daughter or female relative to pursue a career in the industry.

 

As for climbing to the top, given the gender imbalance, I wouldn’t have gotten there without having men as champions. So I recommend that young women in any industry, not just in manufacturing, seek out men as well as women to promote them and their work.

 

Finally, now that I’ve achieved some success, I mentor several women. And anywhere I have some control, whether as CEO at MxD or on boards, I try to have at least two talented women positioned to succeed me or any other female executive. Given how far behind women are at the top of the industry, even replacing one woman with two women will not get us close to parity.

 

Having one woman in the room is simply not enough.

 

Sincerely,

Chandra Brown
CEO, MxD

Testimonials

One of the keys to digital manufacturing success will be workforce engagement and empowerment. Realizing the full potential of digital initiatives will very much depend on engaging all parts of the workforce — men and women.

Amy Radermacher
Amy Radermacher

Head of the McKinsey Digital Capability Center Chicago, McKinsey & Company

It’s training and experience. Women of all ages and from all backgrounds need practical experience embedded within the training, where they can build their confidence and prove out their competence.

Trista Bonds

Vice President, BSD Industries

Manufacturing represents a growing segment of the U.S. economy and has become increasingly modernized. It’s an attractive working environment driven by technology, information, and collaboration. Women should really take a look at careers in manufacturing; they can be successful here and part of a growing sector.

Christie Wong Barrett
Christie Wong Barrett

CEO, MacArthur Corp.