This blog was written as a POV from Cambridge’s Marketing Manager, Annie Krieger, a working mom that found out years ago that she loves the spirit and opportunity she found in the manufacturing industry.
Last week, Meg Brown (Cambridge's VP of Human Resources) and I were invited to join a group of ladies from across Missouri to represent ‘Women Working in Manufacturing’ at the Missouri State Capitol. The Missouri Association of Manufacturing, by ways of Executive Director Michael Eaton and Marketing Manager Andrew LeGrand, organized the event as a way to understand how needs as individuals or for our industry are championed by our elected representatives. We met with several House Representatives and Senators and had the opportunity to speak with both Missouri Governor Michael Parson and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe on the state of manufacturing in Missouri.
Frankly, it’s been a minute since grade school social studies for me, and my recall of how state legislation progresses was a little rusty, so allow me to summarize my learnings for those like me:
1. Your elected officials will open their door to you. They work for you. They want to understand your needs. We saw countless citizens coming and going from the representatives and senators offices that day, all seemingly there to discuss whatever issues they felt important.
2. You don’t have to be an expert on your issue to bring it to your elected official to try to find a solution to your needs. Just be authentic in your pain points and honest as to what could make it better.
Our group came prepared to talk about ongoing labor shortages, to hear about what progress is being made in the supply chain arena and even to discuss a specific bill that would impact one of the manufacturer’s ability to conduct their business.
For logistical purposes, our tour group was small, and we are grateful to have been included. The ladies we met that day held different types of positions at manufacturers from St. Joseph to Columbia to St. Louis. One was a fourth generation owner, another was an assembly team lead – all brought a great energy and insight as to what it means to be a woman working in the manufacturing industry, an industry dominated by men.
Even Cambridge falls victim to this truth – we’ve been working to improve our own female representation in all departments. The needle is moving in the right direction (albeit slowly), but we are still celebrating the fact that we now have a workforce that is 14% women when that number was much smaller just a few years ago.
We’ve been interviewing our female colleagues, following industry trends, jumping on opportunities like this day at the Capitol to try to understand how we can keep improving these representation numbers.
Here are some realizations that we've discovered so far in terms of how to keep growing the number of women working in manufacturing:
1. Word of Mouth still works. Our talent seems to be built on personal positive connections to Cambridge, enforcing the known truth that if you build a workplace and culture your employees can embrace, then they will want to share that with those they love.
2. Glory and Dignity is Being Brought Back to Manufacturing. I don’t know that I ever dreamed of going into the manufacturing industry as a little girl. I probably imagined grit and smog. I now understand how amazing the people are who work in manufacturing, the sophistication of the processes and how much opportunity there is for growth.
3. “Bring Your Whole Self to Work.” While this idea is true for both genders, it cannot be ignored that women, especially working mothers, feel a burden when their employment and needs of their families can’t seem to balance. Encouraging people to speak their needs to their supervisors and find opportunity in bringing ideas from their work to their homes and vice versa will always prove to be the right move.
I could write much, much more on being a woman in manufacturing and why it needs to be celebrated, but I would be stealing the thunder for future blog posts and even more celebration, so over the next year, we will explore deeper into diversity in the manufacturing industry and of course, continue the mission to bring glory and dignity into this wonderful industry.
On a final note, if you are in Manufacturing, be sure to join your local manufacturing associations. The Missouri Association for Manufacturing is an advocate for us and our fellow manufacturers in legislature, in networking and in continuing to bring glory and dignity back to manufacturing.