Blog > August 2021 > Three Things that Women in Manufacturing and Technology Have in Common

Three Things that Women in Manufacturing and Technology Have in Common

After working in finance in the manufacturing industry for almost twenty years, I decided to pursue an opportunity as a finance business partner in the software industry. Although the products changed and there were no large factories at my new tech job, there were some key parallels.

1.    Women in Leadership Roles

First, the scarcity of women in leadership roles was all too familiar. Research has shown that women are less likely to become first-level managers and fall behind men in terms of promotions early in their careers¹. Although I broke into the ranks of management early in my career, the grass was not greener. Even with a partner that was supportive, I found the long hours and high expectations daunting as a mother. I now understand that the company culture and even the micro-culture within the teams and functions that I am a part of daily can positively (or negatively) impact me. I periodically evaluate my desire to be a manager versus an individual contributor to ensure that I am comfortable with the amount of time I spend with my family. Setting and regularly reviewing project priorities has been beneficial in maintaining this balance.

The McKinsey & Company study Women in the Workplace 2020 highlights the increased stress and burnout women are facing during the pandemic. The pandemic was akin to pouring salt in an open wound for working mothers who were already stretched. While there has been more candid discussion and awareness, there is still a large gap for working mothers. If there is any silver lining, it is that some employers are taking the situation more seriously now.

2.    The Need to Network

The need to network is the second common aspect that continues to stand out to me. Networking is critical to identify mentors and sponsors. Over the years, I have learned that networking requires effort and attention, and it is best to dedicate time each week to develop and maintain relationships. Mentors within your current company can assist you with the norms and culture. I also recommend seeking an external mentor beyond your current managers and teams. This will ensure that your mentor has your best interest as the highest priority. A mentor with a very different perspective can challenge you to look beyond your comfort zone. If you want to encourage other women, be an ally. Share a warning if you suspect there’s a pothole or roadblock ahead. Advocate for the ideas of female coworkers and celebrate their accomplishments.

3.    A Growth Mindset

The third thought that rings true for me in technology, like manufacturing, is to have a growth mindset. When I was working at various factories, I learned the production process well enough to be a tour guide. Knowing the production details helped me support the business and interact with my customers, primarily the engineering team. Learning new skills that are related to my business function has enabled me to take on different opportunities throughout my career, too. You probably have heard the phrase, “fake it until you make it.” It may inspire some, but it never resonated with me. A great leader that I worked with imparted the wisdom to “do it afraid.” With a growth mindset, it is ok to have some fear. Stepping outside of my comfort zone and challenging myself has resulted in many great experiences.

Working as a woman in both manufacturing and tech has been both a challenging and educational experience. It goes to show that women’s journeys are united across all industries, despite their unique challenges, which means we can be there for each other no matter where we come from.

¹Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in Management (August 11, 2020).