June 7, 2016

On Friday, June 3, UI LABS was pleased to host “Championing Women in Manufacturing,” the first event we’ve ever had at our Innovation Center related specifically to the issues that women face in this field. We were delighted to have a full house of over 150 attendees.

Speakers included Allison Grealis, President of Women in Manufacturing, Pam McDonough President/CEO of the Alliance for Industry & Manufacturing, Linda McGill-Boasmond, President of Cedar Concepts Corporation, Erica Wiegel, President of Aro Metal Stamping, and Janice Christiansen, President/CEO of Flag Source.

The agenda included remarks from these esteemed speakers along with time for networking and audience Q&A. Ranging from workforce training and the skills gap in a time of digital transformation, to the potential for women to make a significant impact by increasing their presence in fields where they are underrepresented, topics discussed were both timely and consequential.

According to a survey done by Deloitte, nearly three quarters of those that participated say there are not enough women represented at leadership ranks in manufacturing.

Yet despite the gender gap we know is present between men and women in manufacturing, the future remains bright for women who have found the industry. In the same survey, slightly more than half of respondents indicated they have observed positive change in manufacturing’s attitude toward female professional employees over the last five years.

A first step in developing a greater representation of women in the manufacturing sector is to begin telling our own stories of success and groundbreaking research that will hopefully get young girls and women excited about studying STEM disciplines, leading them to help transform the manufacturing industry in the years to come.

As a personal example, my first professional experiences began while working in venture capital, by all accounts a male-dominated industry. I have experienced the challenges women face firsthand throughout my career in these types of industries, and the hard work involved in succeeding. I have also witnessed the progress that has been made – but as many of us know, achieving that goal requires lots of small steps to be made every day by women, as well as men.

The “Champion Women in Manufacturing” event was a great first step to a roadmap of female engagement within manufacturing. The exchange of personal experiences, innovative ideas, and vision for the future made for an event that was both productive and inspirational.

I’d like to give a special thanks to the Alliance for Industry and Manufacturing (AIM) and the Technology & Manufacturing Association (TMA) for their role in organizing the event, and to all of the fantastic speakers who lent their invaluable insights to the dialogue.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.