Q: Women in Manufacturing has experienced significant growth since its inception in 2010. You were there from the start — could you take us on a quick tour?
A: I’d be glad to. It all began in 2010 when the Precision Metalforming Association (PMA) named its first female chairperson, Gretchen Zierick of Zierick Manufacturing. She was instrumental in laying the groundwork for a group within PMA that was then known as Women in Metalforming. I had been with PMA for nearly 10 years by then, and I worked alongside Gretchen in pulling together our first gathering, which was held in Cleveland in 2011. This later became our annual SUMMIT, which was just held in Denver, Colorado, in September. Based on feedback from attendees, and the invaluable support of PMA, we began crafting an organization based specifically on its members’ needs, designing a membership model and a regional chapter structure, and in 2015 we received our 501(c)(6) designation and became a national trade organization and a separate entity known as Women in Manufacturing (WiM). In addition, we created the Women in Manufacturing Education Foundation to develop and deliver enhanced educational opportunities the following year.
Q: Why do you think this organization has been met with such success from its earliest days?
A: I think there were quite a few contributing factors. Before WiM was established, you would find that women naturally gravitated toward each other at trade shows to discuss their shared experiences. Once we had our first event in Cleveland, the level of enthusiasm about having a forum specifically focused on women’s professional issues was really exciting, because nothing like it existed before. So being able to harness that excitement in order to tailor the organization based on member feedback was an important part of our development. And also having the support and expertise of PMA behind us can’t be overstated. We were able to learn from their ‘tried and true’ practices and modify them to match the needs of WiM members. I am still PMA’s vice president of association services, in fact, so the relationship remains close and very productive.
Q: The events calendar on your website lists quite a number of activities for members to engage in; everything from site visits to networking events to educational opportunities. And the SUMMIT agenda is clearly meant to encourage communication and professional development as opposed to equipment displays.
A: Absolutely. Again, everything we do is based on what our members tell us they find valuable in reaching their career goals. That allows us to meet our own goal of supporting, promoting, inspiring, and celebrating women in manufacturing. And a big part of that energy comes from the members who volunteer to create these agendas. Each of our 21 chapters are headed by volunteers who develop activities based entirely on their own members’ feedback, whether that be tours of local manufacturing facilities, job fairs, educational seminars, networking events with business leaders, whatever leads to career fulfillment and advancement. And the same can be said of our annual SUMMIT event, except on a larger scale. The 2019 event was held in Denver, as I’ve mentioned, and we had 482 attendees, which was a 15-percent increase over last year. We’ve seen growth every year, in fact. But it has its own character in that the emphasis is on education and communication rather than displays and demonstrations. Our three-day SUMMITs are made up of roundtable discussions, educational seminars, networking events, site visits to local manufacturing facilities, and social occasions to help build relationships between WiM members that might lead to mutually beneficial future collaborations. And we have a different host committee plan these events each year to keep them fresh and to keep that spirit of enthusiasm alive.
Q: Is there anything new and exciting on the horizon that you’d care to mention?
A: Yes, there is. We’ll be introducing the Women in Manufacturing Hall of Fame at the 2020 SUMMIT Sept. 28-30 in Cleveland, Ohio, which also marks its 10-year anniversary. We’ll be inaugurating the first class on the last night of the conference, which will be Wednesday, Sept. 30. People who are interested in nominating trailblazing women in the industrial workplace will be able to do so by visiting our website. It will be an honor to mark their achievements in this way, and to return just a little of what we’ve all received from their important contributions.