Parsable Podcast

Women in Manufacturing: Recruitment and Retention

Manufacturing has had a damaging perception—one where the industry is male-dominated and potentially physically dangerous. Despite the modernization of the industry, more attention must be directed to marketing these changes. Only then will the industry see new employee talent, both men and women, enter the field.

Allison Grealis, President of Women in Manufacturing, joins the show to discuss strategies for modernizing manufacturing and closing the gap between men and women in the industry.
What was talked about:
  • Current Obstacles for Women in Manufacturing
  • Dispelling Damaging Perspectives & Modernizing Manufacturing
  • Investing in Training
  • Diversity in the Workplace Aiding Creativity
  • Details on Women in Manufacturing
  • Information about Moms in Manufacturing
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Check out the full episode below:

[00:00:01] Josh Santo: Welcome to Conquering Chaos, the show for manufacturing leaders. In each episode, we’re connecting you to the manufacturing leaders of today who are driving the innovations needed to future-proof the operations of tomorrow. If you feel like your time is spent fighting fires and trying to control the everyday chaos, this show is the show for you. My name is Josh Santo. I’ll be your host. Welcome to the show.

Today’s guest has spent her career empowering people within manufacturing with 20 plus years working with trade associations with the majority spent with the Precision Metal-forming Association, also known as the PMA. Now, while at the PMA, Allison founded the Women in Manufacturing Association where she currently serves as the president of the organization. Please welcome to the show, Allison Grealis. Alison, thank you so much for being here today.

[00:00:59] Allison Grealis: Thanks for having me, Josh.

[00:01:01] Josh Santo: We like to start off the show understanding what a day looks like in the life of the guest that we’re bringing on the show. I would love to hear from you, what’s a day in your life look like?

[00:01:10] Allison Grealis: I don’t think any day is the same or duplicative. Each day is unique, interesting, different. Obviously, I’m still with working from home and integrating the loveliness of trying to still get other things done within my professional life while also dealing with year-end for two kids in school and a husband now who’s permanently relocated to our basement as his new office.

A day is filled with lots of entertainment, adventure, and lots of flexing. Today, for example, is my son’s last day of eighth grade, my daughter’s last day of freshman year of high school. In the midst of that, just balancing lots of conference calls meetings, and the like.

[00:01:52] Josh Santo: Wow. Not only is it a full house but you have a couple of milestones being hit. That’s a pretty big deal, one, for eighth grade to be finished because now you’re going into high school, which is definitely a memorable moment in life. Then freshman year being completed, that’s also a big moment. My daughter actually just completed her freshman year as well. With COVID, it’s been quite the non-traditional freshman year, to say the least. I’m sure that your daughter’s had a similar experience.

[00:02:22] Allison Grealis: Yes, she definitely did. It was a unique way to start freshman year. Thankfully, her school is a private all-girls school and they were open for much of the year. The girls were going each day to school, which made it seem more regular or more traditional, which was great. Very dissimilar from her eighth-grade experience where much of the year was spent at home with mom and dad and brother.

I think she was happy to have what seemed almost like a traditional freshman year of high school and plus sports helped a lot. She played softball, so that led to her getting to be out and about and playing a sport that she loves for much of spring.

[00:02:59] Josh Santo: I can completely relate to that. My daughter plays softball as well. I definitely noticed a complete difference in energy, excitement, enthusiasm, with regard to school when that ability to actually go back, participate in sports was an option. Really glad to see some of that normalcy coming about.

We’ve got you here today because you are the leader of the Women in Manufacturing Association. What we’re going to talk about then a little bit, we want to pick your brain on a topic, and that’s Women in Manufacturing. Surprise, everyone, president of Women in Manufacturing, topic is Women in Manufacturing. Let’s level set first.

Now this, in general, a topic that comes up pretty frequently on this show regardless of what the topic is for that episode, it’s that the fact that manufacturing is struggling to recruit and retain workers. Now, specifically, a lot of that conversation focuses on how do we target the younger generation? Millennials and Gen Z? What are those things that are working against the manufacturing industry, whether it’s perception or reality?

One thing that cannot be argued is that there is an expected 2.8 million jobs that will go unfilled in manufacturing by 2030. We can come to a couple of conclusions. One of those conclusions being that the way that we’ve historically tried to fill these roles is not enough. It’s clearly not working. Something else has to be done. New efforts, new incentives, new ways of providing education, et cetera.

One thing that we haven’t explored with regard to this topic is women in manufacturing or really the lack thereof. The lack thereof especially when compared to other industries. In fact, looking at the statistics from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up nearly half of the total working population but in manufacturing, they make up less than 30%. Specifically, 29.5% based off the 2020 information available on that site.

I really want to dig into this topic with you. Allison, I’d love to hear from you what you have found to be some of the reasons why the percentage of women in manufacturing is lower compared to other industries.

[00:05:07] Allison Grealis: I and our organization believe that women are not as significantly represented in manufacturing, not because there’s not interest or not because there’s not opportunity. Sadly, I think it’s just the fact that many young women and professional women just don’t really understand what modern manufacturing looks like or, as well, the opportunities that modern manufacturing companies and careers offer to individuals.

I think there’s just a gap and a disconnect in women’s understanding and awareness of these great opportunities that exist within manufacturing. As an organization over our last decade of being formed and as well active to provide resources to companies and individuals, one of our biggest focuses has been around the area of marketing manufacturing.

Unfortunately, again, I think we’re just not reaching people early enough in their development and their awareness and when they’re making choices about what career do I want to pursue and what position would I want to someday have? I think, sadly, we’re just not getting to people early enough for them to get introduced to manufacturing as a top option, a desirable option. As well, I think we’re just not telling enough the stories and the impact around the profitability, the prosperity, and the rewarding career you can have as a result of entering manufacturing.

[00:06:23] Josh Santo: That sounds like something that’s similar to just, in general, the struggles that are being had with recruiting and retaining the younger generation. One of the things that I’m picking up on what you’re saying is that idea of starting earlier, don’t wait until someone is ready to enter the workforce because at that point, maybe some perceptions or ideas have already started to solidify. It’s really starting a bit earlier.

One of the first things you said, that it’s not due to a lack of interest, it’s not due to a lack of opportunity, then what are some commonly held perspectives that you’ve encountered related to the low representation of women in manufacturing that we should seek to dispel?

[00:07:07] Allison Grealis: Again, I think organizations have, because of this huge need that they have for talent, have been forced to be more creative in how they market and communicate the opportunities at their organizations and companies. As they market and present those opportunities, they’ve had to, I think, be also equally creative as they talk about what their manufacturing operations look like, what is the culture of their organization? How are they impacting the environment? How are they impacting the economy?

Current present job seekers, those types of things and factors are really important to them. Not just about what a company is but also its mission, what it stands for, who are their board of directors? What are those key cultural elements at those organizations? As we look at recruiting a new generation, we have to dispel some of those archaic ideas around manufacturing and what does manufacturing mean?

I recall when my kids were in elementary school, in younger ages, they had a section in some of their social studies book around manufacturing. Lo and behold, even in present-day, I think at the time it was 2018, their books still had smokestacks and factories and the most archaic and industrial, not in a positive way, industrial-looking images that surrounded manufacturing.

That’s the challenge. If you, at an early age, are being told that manufacturing is something that is not modern, is perhaps dangerous, and some other negative things. Why would you want to potentially pursue that as a future career opportunity?

As we talk to companies, so much of it is about modernizing their messaging, modernizing and being vocal about their story and what types of things they’re doing. So many of these manufacturing companies are hugely charitable. They’re hugely committed to sustainability and environmental action and as well diversity and equity, and inclusion. Working with manufacturers direct on this marketing, messaging, and changing that narrative around manufacturing is so very important.

[00:09:08] Josh Santo: It absolutely is. There’s not just this shift that we see consumer demand for more sustainable business practices, more socially conscious practices but from a worker standpoint, workers are being more selective, now more than ever, as to where are they going to spend their time? Where are they going to spend their careers?

One of the factors that you just brought up is that idea of sustainability or even with regard to modernizing the messaging, you mentioned the charitable acts of some of these companies, which, just like we’re seeing with consumer preferences is translating also into worker preferences because, at the end of the day, the workers are consumers as well. It makes sense that these perspectives and beliefs would cross those lines there.

That idea of archaic images, perceptions, et cetera, in dispelling that, that’s quite the under test. I love how you put it there. The key is marketing. You’re not marketing your product, you have to market your company as a place that people want to work.

I often compare this to tech companies because I think tech companies have focused, for so long, on a war for talent themselves. Software engineers can quit one company with a hundred different offers ready to go for another one. Some of the ways aside from money is “here’s what it’s like working for us”. You get Fridays off or maybe there’s Tuesday lunches or like Google gives you lunch, from what I hear, morning, noon, and night. That idea of modernizing those programs, et cetera. What have you found to be the opportunity there or some of the difficulties that need to be addressed in order to make progress there with modernizing?

[00:10:47] Allison Grealis: We did a survey in the fall of 2020, and we heard from close to, I think, 500 individual women in manufacturing about their perceptions of their industry, their feedback we received on their current company on what their organizations were doing to support them as a female employee as well, how their companies were tackling the importance and addressing the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Then, as well, we ask them about what programs are in place to help you develop as an individual in your industry, at your organization, and company, and as well, what are those programs that are helping you want to stay at your organization and company? We heard very loudly from the survey that we conducted that one of the biggest pieces that females in manufacturing are struggling with is that whole integration and balance, which we think balance is an often a very achievable thing.

That balance of personal life, as well as professional life and unique balance that has to be, or that I think we unrealistically try to achieve between, if you’re a mom or a caregiver, balancing that and integrating that with your professional life.

When we ask about what is the most desired employee benefit that your company can provide to help retain you as an employee, and that can help you be a more contributory individual to your organization, the biggest thing we heard was childcare. Childcare is a huge thing that manufacturing companies are trying to figure out and trying to be flexible around.

We’ve seen in person, when I’ve done facility tours, some companies that have already integrated and launched onsite daycare for their employees, regardless of rank, whether you’re in production or in leadership at the organization. Then, as well, many companies have gotten really creative around work scheduling. Looking at schedules that start perhaps after mom’s gotten or dad has gotten kids on buses and gotten them to their educational destination and then, as well, allowing them the flexibility to end at an earlier time so they can get kids off a bus or deal with after-school care.

There are so many talented women, even in my personal network that have very advanced degrees. If you look at the percentage of women with advanced degrees, it is amazing. A larger number of women have PhDs and masters, and are highly educated, and so many of them are sitting at home because they wanted to have kids. They wanted to raise a family.

I have, just in my own neighborhood, I have physicians, chemists, engineers who haven’t yet returned to the workforce because they still are dealing with child-rearing and getting kids through elementary school and into high school.

Companies are getting creative. Present-day, I think there’s more than 515,000 open manufacturing jobs and companies are looking at how do we recruit this population of individuals that are problem solvers, they’re educated, they would bring great thought and perspective to the organization? How can we flex to meet their needs?

I think as we look at that, that’s one of the biggest corporate initiatives that we see that can help with the retention of women, the recruitment of women, and then as well, I think, as we talked about the marketing and messaging. I think talking about how companies invest in training and education and development, that’s important too to anyone, regardless of gender and age.

Again, people are looking for, “How can I grow with this organization? How can I become a key contributor, and then what does my pathway look like?” Especially if you look at millennials and the newest generations, they want to pretty quickly understand, “Okay, what’s this pathway that I’ve got in the next 3, 5, 10 years to be at a more significant leadership position or a larger contributor level at the company?”

[00:14:20] Josh Santo: I’m really interested in that research that you provided. What you’re calling out is, like you mentioned, it’s impacting not just manufacturing, but all the other industries as well. There’s this huge question of why aren’t people returning to insert type of job here, post-pandemic? Post-pandemic, we’re still coming out of the pandemic, so I don’t mean to say that it’s completely over, but it is that idea of not all of the resources that people rely on are there that allows them to do that.

When you have to prioritize your family or a job, people are going to choose family, the safety of the family, the well-being of the family, and rightfully so, no one should put them in a position to say no work over family. I love to hear that some of the conversations that you’re having with is how can you make this a better transition? That idea of childcare or scheduling. I think that that’s such a great thing taking into consideration the fact that most schools start at a certain time, which means if you have to drop off your child, that’s the time commitment that just can’t be avoided.

Or even if you’re getting your child onto the bus, same thing with coming home, let’s consider what are these priorities in people’s lives, and if we want to make our place a place to work, our competitive advantage for recruiting and retaining people could be offering this flexibility, which we see becoming huge demand.

Separate from this, you hear about, all the time now, people are quitting their jobs because that lack of flexibility. That’s something that was introduced to them. This ability to work from home, the preference there, the things that you can get done, the way you can avoid traffic. Now, that’s certainly not a possibility for every position, particularly the manufacturing. We need people there in the facilities who are working and making sure that the product that needs to be created is getting created. Just that idea of how do you work with people instead of dictating that this is the way that they should work sounds like it can open some doors.

[00:16:23] Allison Grealis: I think what we’ve all been through for the last 15 months has advanced manufacturers, in particular, I think, in a very rapid pace, where I think there was often concern about can manufacturers offer the types of flexibilities that the Googles and Silicon Valley have been offering? Those types of companies have been offering for years? We’ve proven in the last 15 months, we can. There can be an opportunity to have people select what type of work preference they would like to pursue based on their job qualifications and their description.

I was just talking to a large manufacturing company human resources leader this week, and she said they’ve just gone through their entire organizational audit, and people had to select which work schedule best suits them. We’re finally taking into consideration the needs and the particular preferences of employees and how they best work and how are they most productive? That’s huge.

I think also this pandemic has shed a light on really the humanity of individual employees. For the first time ever, I think it’s okay for people to acknowledge that they have families or that they’ve got elder care issues, or maybe they’re even struggling with wellness issues or mental health issues. All of those things are now coming to the forefront and we are finally recognizing and celebrating the fact that we’re all human. That we all are not robots that hop on to a website every day or onto a VPN or portal. We’re not robots going into an office and doing our eight to five gig, but rather we’re very human individuals who are talented and contributing in all different ways to companies and manufacturing companies in particular. I think companies are putting together those right programs and services to recognize and support the whole being of their employee.

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Josh Santo: Now back to the show. One thing I want to go back to that you said was that focused on investing in training, making sure people understand the pathways. How to get– “You start here, you can get to here,” or, “Here are your options that we know of or that we recommend, and here’s how you can get there, and more importantly, here are people that you can speak with and work with that can help provide some of that mentorship. ”

I’m wondering, from your perspective, when we look at the fact that there is a lower percentage of women in manufacturing, if that becomes a little bit of a cycle where young women potentially see that there’s not a whole lot of women in that profession and so they decide maybe that’s not a profession for myself. Is that something that you have seen or explored?

[00:20:47] Allison Grealis: Definitely. That’s why our organization first got started is that I was working with women in, at the time, metal forming companies and within that space, many of them are second and third-generation leaders that were often daughters or nieces taking over their now family businesses. They were looking for a community, people they could connect to.

Some of them felt alone or isolated, or they were the only one doing this, that they were the only one leading their organization and company. We created a community based on that need for women to feel supported, to feel like they could tap into their expertise and the learning of others who’d been there before, or who are currently in the throes of either leadership or decision making, or just manufacturing operations.

We created the community for that purpose and, as you mentioned and cited, mentoring is critically important as we look at how women advance and how they stay in their careers and why they stay at their organizations, having someone to talk to is really important. In our survey that we did last fall as well we asked women what percentage were participating in mentoring, and the vast majority of them were, I think it was more than 62%.

Then we also asked, “Are those mentors male or female?” The vast majority of those mentors were men. We then last asked in that section of questioning, “Would you prefer to have a female or male mentor?” The vast majority said, “I would like to have a female mentor.” We know that there are lots of opportunities to support women who are in careers who are looking to advance to as well provide them the right training and resources.

We see manufacturing companies really stepping up and investing not only the internal programs for training and education advancement, but as well working with us and other institutions on more formal leadership programs that are external to their companies.

Last year, we launched a new program specifically for leaders who are at the executive suite called Our Leadership Consortium, it’s our first meeting, and learning experience that is both men and women leaders in manufacturing, where we’re talking about really important issues like unconscious bias and global thinking and the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion.

We as well have a program for middle managers and early career managers. Then the newest program that we have launching this fall in 2021 is for empowering women in production. As I had conversations, which much of my day is spent talking to manufacturing leaders and companies, one of their biggest challenges is on the retention of women in production and the hourly ranks and getting them to that first and helping support and getting them to their first line of leadership.

We designed with the help– designed by manufacturers with us for manufacturers, this program for empowering women in production that will be executed at the facility level because we know these women most often don’t have the ability to travel and to go external for training, especially out of state, and it includes things like their first assessment that they’ve probably ever had professionally and includes coaching, where they each will have a coach who works with them on career visioning and as well setting goals and expectations for themselves professionally.

Then peer coaching will be part of it as well, where they can meet other women in production from all over the country, and lend support to one another. We’re excited in training education as critical, and companies, again, they themselves, have many internal formal leadership programs. We have been, again, an ally for many companies. Then we do a lot of virtual training and learning as well. We have members now in 35 countries, as well as in 48 US states and then in Canada and Mexico.

We’ve been working specifically on how do we virtualize and make pretraining on demand, knowing that the schedules for people are varied depending upon titles and location. We now have a virtual Learning Library that members can access at any time for recorded sessions and for quick learning in different areas.

[00:24:35] Josh Santo: There’s a lot of great stuff that you just brought up and one of the things that I want to touch on first is that idea of community. One thing that I’ve learned, and I’m not taking credit for this idea, because it’s an idea that I learned while just trying to learn more about decision-making and why people make certain decisions and that idea of community and identity is so critical to that.

In fact, the phrase that was used was this idea that people like us do things like this. I think that that certainly applies to what we’re talking about, is the more that you can show women being successful, having these things that all people want, which is the development, the rewarding career, the flexibility where work supports life, not life having to support the work, all of that showing how that is something that can be accomplished, how there are people like yourself, who have been in your shoes who are doing these things and accomplishing this, the more that that can be shown, the more that’s going to appeal to people and it starts to become a little bit of that, for lack of a better description, a butterfly effect, where it’s that change happens. Then that starts to grow and influence others, and that starts to grow and influence others, and that starts to grow and influence others.

I think that that’s such a powerful idea, and one of the things that I really like about the work that y’all are doing. Now, some of the other stuff that you talked about, particularly on that idea of tying people together, mentorship is so critical, but providing coaching, especially if it’s coaching from someone that’s not employed at the company, I think that’s huge.

There’s an opportunity to be a little bit more vulnerable there, to not fear repercussion, and to be a little bit more honest about where the struggles are so that you can get an empathetic experienced individual to say, “Here’s how I was able to accomplish,” or, “Here’s how I can be a partner with you.” I know certainly mentorship is something that I’ve looked for and that I’ve heard from other people that I’ve spoken with in manufacturing that they’re looking for, as well.

Now, you mentioned, you brought up that idea of diversity, and we all know that diversity is critical for innovation. It really is. There’s more and more studies coming out that are proving that point. When you build teams with people from diverse backgrounds, that leads to new ideas, that leads to new perspectives, and that comes together to lead to breakthroughs.

Especially when we’re talking about this time of change, where there’s so much impact in manufacturing, not just the workforce challenges, but the fact that consumer preferences are shifting, and so you have to be a little bit more creative in how you’re producing the products that you’re making. There is technical innovations that are coming through.

You’d have to figure out how it is that you’re going to be able to adapt your operations with this rise in technology and you have to do it before your competitors because your competitors are also looking at the same thing. In fact, when we recorded an episode with Andy Lee from DuPont, this is what she talked about, is how you have to have your eye on what’s emerging now, what’s next, and what’s the future looks like. The now, the new, and the next. Highly recommend everyone check that out.

It’s that idea of like, look, innovation has to happen, part of that is building these diverse perspectives, and part of building a diverse team is making sure that women are a key part of that. That is not just a male-dominated field, that it’s men and women working together. We talked a little bit about how these positions can be a little bit more appealing. What are some of the needs that have to change?

Now, you mentioned partnering with people to help women who are in manufacturing grow and develop their careers. I’m curious if you have a perspective on what kind of impacts enabling women in manufacturing, whether they are current manufacturing professionals or soon-to-be manufacturing professionals? What kind of impact can that have on an operation?

[00:28:38] Allison Grealis: Having women at the helm, and women leaders can definitely help companies be more productive, more profitable. Research has proven that companies with diverse boards of directors, diverse leadership teams are the most profitable, innovative, creative, and the quickest to problem solve, and to come up with those new product services that often a company would not have arrived at without that diversity of thought and input. Having female leaders is critical as well as diverse individuals in organizations.

Just stepping back for one second, as you were talking about coaching and the importance, as well, of having that external feedback, I just wanted to share research that we’ve done and we have found, I think it was from, most recently, Harvard Business Review cited that one of the key reasons that women aren’t advancing to leadership is that they’re not getting the feedback that they need along the way.

There’s often a skittishness and a nervousness too often from male executives, leaders, managers to give females honest and direct feedback and evaluation. The lack of feedback and the lack of evaluation is really hindering women to help advance, to help them be that selected leader in their organization. That’s where I think coaching steps in, having executive coaches who are external, that they, perhaps, for the first time, are giving feedback to an individual leader who’s female that maybe she should have gotten 10, 15 years ago, but never did, is really important. I think that will be one of those factors that will help to increase those numbers of women that get to leadership positions in companies and organizations.

You also spoke about the importance of sharing and celebrating those women who have risen and arrived at leadership positions. That’s so, so very important. We often say you can’t be what you can’t see. In 2016, we launched a series called Hear Her Story, which has featured the stories of women in manufacturing. We’ve now profiled, I think, close to 80 individual stories.

These are women from all different walks of life who have arrived at manufacturing all very differently, but the goal is to share their stories, to share and celebrate their advancement in the organizations and in the industry with the hope to inspire this future generation to want to enter manufacturing and to, perhaps, have a similar experience to that individual.

Just last, I guess it’s now two months ago, in April, we launched a podcast Hear Her Story, which brings those interviews and stories live that we were doing through more of a reporting blog post. It’s really exciting and I think that all of those things together, giving women more direct feedback, evaluation along their career journey, putting in opportunities for women to receive coaching, both peer and executive coaching, also providing women maybe necessary assessments that they haven’t had, that their company hasn’t provided, all of these are really, I think, positive inputs that will help us grow more women at leadership helms within manufacturing companies.

Our goal as an organization since day one has never been just to achieve equity in manufacturing. We don’t just care about getting to 50% of the manufacturing workforce, we care about more women rising into leadership positions that will change cultures, that will change how organizations operate, and, obviously, will be a beacon of inspiration for future women.

[00:32:03] Josh Santo: We’re going to have a link to Hear Her Story in the show notes. I did have the opportunity to check it out. I listened to the first two episodes, and I think that they were fantastic. First, I think you do a great job of hosting. Hosting a podcast can be a little difficult from time to time. It can be a little awkward, but I think that it comes across very natural with the way that you present, but also that you are bringing in some diverse stories.

It’s not just women in manufacturing and how they first got involved, what their experience was like, what appealed to them, what were some of the things that they had to overcome, but just that idea of showcasing real people, their real stories, that’s so powerful, and that’s what people respond to most. I highly encourage everyone to check it out. I think it’s a really well-done show.

Let’s talk a little bit now about Women in Manufacturing Association. You’re the president and the founder, and this is a trade association dedicated to providing year-round support to women who have chosen a career in manufacturing. I think you have a little more than 7,000 members across 1,500 companies. That includes all kinds of job functions too.

We’ve talked a little bit about some of the work that your organization has done partnering with manufacturers. Let’s talk a little bit more in-depth about how the WiM, the Women in Manufacturing Association can help women who have joined the manufacturing industry. You mentioned some of the on-demand trainings, but let’s talk about some little specific things so we can make sure people understand what the opportunity here is.

[00:33:39] Allison Grealis: I think our goal as an organization is to connect women with other women. First and foremost, we started to provide women a network to tap into for resources and inspiration and as well just connections. If you look at research and data, it shows most advancements and most opportunities come through relationships. Why not provide women in industry an opportunity to make connections all over the country, now all over the globe that they may have not made otherwise?

We have a directory that women can access. They can as well indicate if they’re interested in being a mentor for someone, as well if they’re interested in being a mentee. Providing women access just to this large network of people they can tap into for, again, a chat, a conversation, a meeting, and again, where they can make great connections that can help them advance and further their careers.

The second part is very much around training and education. Whether it be through our formal leadership program or our virtual training, those are critical pieces that we continue to evolve our opportunities and offerings as it relates to training. We currently work with a programming called Development Committee that’s part of our group that helps give us, again, inputs from manufacturing companies to say, “Hey, we really could use a certificate program on X, or we could use some special training in this area,” and then we respond and try to integrate it into a unique training for our individual members and our corporate members.

Then as well as we look at the other key benefit that we are offering for individuals, that advancement piece is really one of the growing significant areas of focus. How do we advance individuals to new opportunities, and then, as well, how do we help companies present their opportunities to job-seeking women?

We have focused this past year, in particular, a lot around recruitment resources, so not only to strengthen our job board that we have called WiMWorks where women can job seek and be found. That website and that job board, WiMWorks, as well, is a key resource for manufacturing companies to post positions and opportunities. Then given the pandemic and people’s inability on the human resources and the talent development side to go live to meet with people, we now deliver virtual career fairs on a quarterly basis for companies to connect with talented women who are job seeking.

Our career fairs as well do have some male attendees. We are a very inclusive organization just as a side note. We have a percentage of our members who are male, and we know men are very important. They still are the predominant class and gender in manufacturing and men are very strong allies for women in manufacturing. We do a lot of training around how men can be powerful allies, and what are the things that they can do within their position to help advance women in manufacturing, to help support and to help be a key resource and ally for our industry and for our population.

We have lots of things that we focus on. Then one of the biggest things too is community access. We are a national trade association. We’re located in Cleveland Ohio just outside of the city, but we have chapters now 29 of them around the country. We know that often education training and networking is often most impactful when it happens locally, where you have easier access to those resources. Our 29 volunteer-led chapters have been key resources for us to get to the localized areas where our members often need us most.

[00:37:01] Josh Santo: Those programs sound really great. I’m going to get a link for WiMWorks to include that in the show notes as well. I think that that’s something really interesting that should be shared and spread. I love that you called out that it’s men and women because this is not something to be solved by women necessarily, or only by women or impacting only women.

The point of our conversation so far today is this is impacting the industry. The industry impacts us all, and it is all of our responsibility, both men and women, to make sure that positive experience is seen and felt, and people are empowered the way that they need to be empowered, because when you empower people, it impacts everyone else. It’s not just like someone’s getting special attention or special treatment. No, when you raise people up, when you better the experience for everyone else, there’s an impact to be had by all people.

There’s also another program that we brought up or that you discussed yesterday during our– not yesterday, Wednesday during our pre-interview, which I would love to hear just a little bit more about, which is the Moms in Manufacturing, which I think is a new event for working moms. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

[00:38:16] Allison Grealis: Yes. We’re very excited about our Moms in Manufacturing initiative. This is meant to be a community that Women in Manufacturing as an association will support year-round for our moms in manufacturing to connect with one another, to provide support and guidance and resources.

If we’ve learned one thing I think that was very significant over the past 15 months of the pandemic, it’s been that moms and working moms have been most negatively impacted by the pandemic. We talked a little bit earlier in our conversation about childcare and need for resources and the integration of life and work, and working moms were dramatically impacted by the pandemic.

1 in 4 are considering or have left the workforce, and as well, many of them are still currently struggling with how to advance their career, given a time of uncertainty and lots of change within how their life operates day to day.

Our Moms in Manufacturing Community, that group that we’ve created is meant to be a response mechanism to these current challenges and continuing challenges that moms face. Balancing work trips and career opportunities and all of these things, while at the same time, trying to raise healthy and happy kids. This will be a year-round community people can tap into virtually, and then we will be doing meetings on a quarterly basis for this group.

The first is in August, and we will be offering keynote speakers who will talk on these very timely topics around working moms, and then as well, they will be having time for dialogue. To connect through virtual round tables with one another, to make new connections, and, again, year-round, we will add this as, again, another member benefit for those that connect with us.

[00:39:58] Josh Santo: I think that’s a great initiative and I’m really looking forward to that. You said that was in August and we’ll make sure to include a link to that as well in the show notes, because I think that that’s something that should absolutely be promoted. It goes back to that idea that you brought up, which is how do you bring awareness of the difficulties that people are encountering when going to work, which starts to impact the decisions to work in certain locations?

As an industry, you have to look at what’s going to help people say, “Yes, this is a company that I want to work for, this is a job that I want to do, and here it is how you’re going to get me to stick with it”. Again, back to that point, it’s all of our responsibilities. It’s not just a single organization, because it’s going to impact the entire industry, which impacts all consumers and it has such a huge effect.

I know that we’ve covered a lot today, not just why it’s important to promote manufacturing as a career path that can be just as rewarding as other industries for women, we also spoke about what manufacturers can do and how the Women in Manufacturing Association can help. Now, before we wrap, what’s the best way for our listeners to connect with you, your organization, continue the conversation. Talk to us a little bit about individual and company alike.

[00:41:13] Allison Grealis: Our website is a great resource for people to find out more information about the services and the resources we offer to individuals and companies. We also do have student members as well. That’s a huge population for us that we’re trying to reach and engage to, again, introduce them to manufacturing careers.

Our website is We also are very active on social channels, including LinkedIn, where we have our largest community of connected individuals and industry. We can be found @WomeninMFG, is our handle on those social channels.

[00:41:47] Josh Santo: @WomeninMFG. Great. Is there anything that I didn’t ask you that you wish I would’ve asked you today?

[00:41:55] Allison Grealis: No, I think we had a great dialogue. Again, I would just encourage any listeners to check out our resources. Time and time again, we’re hearing from manufacturing companies that they wish that they knew that we had offered some of these things or as well they wish that they knew that other companies were tackling some of the same problems so that they could collaborate, share information. There’s no need to recreate the wheel and race resources. We’d love for companies and individuals to find us, to tap into our resources. We hope to be a benefit to both of those groups of individuals.

[00:42:25] Josh Santo: I completely agree. No need to reinvent the wheel. Work with people who’ve already got things in motion who have the experience. For our listeners out there, check out the show notes to get more information about Women in Manufacturing. Please, give her story a listen. You can find it on the same podcasting outlets that you find Conquering Chaos on. Allison, thank you so much for joining us today.

[00:42:48] Allison Grealis: Thank you. Thanks for having me, Josh.


[00:42:51] Josh Santo: That’s the show. Thank you so, so much for joining us today. Conquering Chaos is brought to you by Parsable. If you’re a fan of these conversations, subscribe to the show and leave us a rating on Apple Podcasts. Just tap the number of stars you think the show deserves. As always, feel free to share what’s top of mind for you and who you think we should talk to next. Until then, talk soon, take care, stay safe, and bye-bye.


Listen to find out how recruitment and retention affect women in manufacturing