Hard Lessons for the Old Boy Network: Nothing Wrong with US MFG More Women Wouldn’t Fix

Women in MFG 2Understand, my best friend in the world is a woman – and she’s been at my side through nearly five decades. What’s more, together we have a daughter, a beautiful and talented young lady who every day blows me away with the wise, witty and deeply insightful things she continues to say, do and believe.

So I clearly come at this issue with a unique and, perhaps, particular bias.

But it’s hard for me to read a newspaper or watch the news these days and not feel sickened by the number of disturbing items that have at their core the mistreatment and objectification of women.

Moore and TrumpEverything from a sitting president having been caught on tape bragging how his fame permits him get away with molesting women, to a former judge and major party candidate for the U.S. Senate who’s not only been accused multiple times of pedophilia with underage girls, but one whose supporters either blame the victims or cite biblical references as a defense of the man’s scurrilous (and illegal) behavior.

And that’s not to mention the most powerful man in Hollywood who’s recently been outed for almost singlehandedly exposing the term “casting couch” for what it is; a PG-rated euphemism for sexual blackmail and predation, an edgy comic who, come to find out, literally can’t keep it in his pants in front of a beautiful woman, and a couple of morning talk show hosts, a former SNL comic-turned-U.S. Senator, and so many, many others.

I bring this up because, as anyone who regularly reads this blog knows, I believe one of the easiest and most critical fixes we can make in the industrial sector is to start recruiting, hiring and training more women in key positions.

Women in MFG 1Not only are women capable of doing the highly skilled manufacturing jobs so many of us claim we’re finding impossible to fill, but as workers women are proving every day to be just as dedicated, loyal and goal-oriented as men; traits so many decision-makers would have us believe only the male of our species is capable of possessing.

I should know. I’ve recently hired two talented and motivated women to design and product engineer for me; the type of work that’s always been (and, frankly, will always be) the backbone of American manufacturing.

What’s more, these women are not merely good employees, they’re living, breathing repudiations of the annoying and increasingly popular belief held by so many in the world, male and female alike – that a woman has no place doing a technical job.

Women in MFG 8And it’s that attitude against which I will now and forevermore draw a lean, clean in the sand.

Because not only are my two new engineers women, and not only do they hail from rich and culturally diverse ethnic backgrounds, but both also happen to be first generation immigrants, one from India, the other the Ivory Coast.

Take that all you Neanderthal knuckle-draggers who believe there’s nothing wrong with the U.S. economy a little good old-fashioned 1950’s-style manufacturing, a few more belching smokestacks, and a touch more carbon-burning and resource-squandering wouldn’t cure.

Old School MFGAbilasha Nandakumar and Mouna Soumahoro are terrific employees, as I said. But more, they’re part of a diverse team at my company, one that has grown rife with women in key positions, up and down the org chart, both on the shop floor and in the office. And make no mistake, without these skilled and dedicated ladies I’d find myself swimming upstream daily to try to find new business and fill existing orders.

But beyond being model employees and gifted engineers, Abi and Mouna have also taken it upon themselves to start a blog, one that addresses the very issues women like they – women in manufacturing, women engineers, and women who’ve chosen to forge a career in a STEM field – face on a daily basis.

Now granted, the blog is still in its embryonic stage and still, so to speak, sporting its training wheels. But as their employer and a strong advocate for more (and more skilled) women in manufacturing, it heartens me to no end to see that kind of passion and commitment to the industry I’ve loved so dearly and for so long.

Women in MFG 3And having read what I’ve just read of their blog, and having achieved a greater understanding of their desire to support not just each other, but other female STEM pioneers, I promise you this; I will make it a priority to do whatever I can to support them and their endeavor.

I’ll probe. I’ll read. And, most of all, I’ll learn.

My friends, as we get ready to put 2017 to bed, and as we stand here on the precipice of a new and, likely, challenging year, I urge you to join me in helping to do the one thing I truly believe American manufacturing needs now more than ever.

Women in MFG 5Collectively, those of us who love this sector must turn the page, wake up and smell the coffee, or whatever metaphor you choose. We – especially we men – must promise to try to recruit, hire and support more women in our shops and foundries; more women engineers, more women product designers, and more women managers and executives.

Because we old-school veterans of American industry need what women have always brought to our table, and need what they, in turn, can still teach us about ourselves and the largely male-centric work environments we’ve allowed to develop under our watch.

And, unlike the abusive dinosaurs and privileged power-wielders I’m sick and tired of reading about in the newspaper, my pledge goes beyond the simple machinations of any one position or any single employer/employee dynamic.

It goes beyond recruiting, hiring and training, and touches something more basic and fundamental to our responsibilities as members of the human race.

It goes to honesty. It goes to decency. And it goes to equal opportunity.

Women in MFG 6But, above all, it goes to the respect we men must learn to develop for the power, sanctity and God-given rights of the remarkable women with whom we now share space in the great American industrial workplace.

Join me, won’t you?

(To read Abi and Mouna’s blog, or to subscribe, please go to www.manufem.com.)

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