Manufacturing is an industry with a longstanding history of male leadership. According to a report by Deloitte, women constitute manufacturing’s largest pool of untapped talent in the United States. In fact, there’s been a considerable gender gap in labor and corporate leadership for generations. Seemingly, slow to evolve.
Yet as the foundation of the industry transforms and software becomes integrated to fit a more modern landscape, so does the authority behind these technologies. In both 2021 and 2022, we saw several emerging technological innovations and methodologies in manufacturing. We believe that women have been at the helm of this revolution, integrating intuition with analytics and leadership qualities in startups, software, pharma, journalism, investment, workforce training, and more.
If you’ve been listening to the Augmented Podcast with futurist Trond Undheim, you might have noticed these women are challenging the status quo—tipping the scales at a crucial time when the industry demands a more multifaceted and intersectional approach to some of the most significant issues facing the field. Issues like the shortage of workers, the necessity for engagement, diverse representation, and visibility. Starting from the most recent to earlier episodes of the podcast, we want to highlight seven of our favorite female thought leaders, spending some time describing their impact on the industry.
Augmented Podcast's 7 Women Revolutionizing Manufacturing
1. Laila Partridge
Laila Partridge is a woman leading the change in startup culture. She takes an approach of amplification and acceleration to disrupt the status quo as managing director of the STANLEY+ Techstars AI Accelerator. The two global brands have been partners for three years, broadening the landscape for innovation in manufacturing and diversifying the boards in the investment community. Stanley Black & Decker has prided itself on having a collaborative and inclusive culture eager to transform advanced manufacturing for the future of the workforce. TechStars' mission is to fund CEOs who are underrepresented minorities. In partnership with Techstars CEO Maelle Gavet, the accelerator emphasizes electrification, AI, sustainability, and eco-tech. As director, Laila does not take her position lightly, selecting ten global early-stage startups and connecting entrepreneurs with mentors who will guide them into the suitable spaces to accelerate their vision–all in 13 weeks.
“We have very aggressive goals internally to have CEOs that we fund who are women and underrepresented minorities. I like to think of them as underestimated communities because that's not been traditionally supported. We have a woman CEO of Techstars who particularly feels passionately about that. So, when I look at what we can do, broadly speaking, we can expose the entrepreneurs to domain expertise. We can expose those entrepreneurs to mentors. We can expose them to opportunities for pilots. Within all those processes, if the focus remains on encouraging diversity and pulling in people who normally may not consider careers in these industries, those are great ways to do it.”
2. Hilarie Koplow-McAdams
After 35 years of trailblazing product and sales leadership, Hilarie Koplow-McAdams has a unique perspective on what scales and what falters in enterprise software. Hilarie’s take: relationships are at the heart of the industry and are the essential element of scaling sales-based organizations in IT. Hilarie was first exposed to disruptive go-to-market techniques at software company Oracle. Soon after, she took a radical approach and set the foundation for the rest of her career as a venture partner. In episode 41, Trond and Hilarie discuss the controversies leveled around her vision of simplicity, which Salesforce, one of the earliest cloud companies, eventually brought to the customer. What is also notable is her pronouncement of social momentum in scaling a meaningful moment in the market.
“I started recruiting people who would talk about the cloud as a safe location for data so that could help credible spokespeople who did not have Salesforce on their business cards. They had no vested interest in this pronouncement of the movement. I think the market moves in waves–what I would describe as staging, creating, and stimulating a movement. You hear people talk about this today as a community. Your job scaling the company is to be the catalyst for that movement to take off. Use this solution, but help ignite the movement, be a flag carrier for the movement; be a hero for the movement.”
3. Michelle Vuolo
Tulip’s own Michelle Vuolo has spent 24 years working in biopharmaceuticals and the medical device industries. She has worn several hats: working in a lab, engineering support, managing Quality Assurance, and administering CS compliance before jumping over to the digital automation-aligned frontline operations platform, Tulip. She effectively understands the need for the life sciences industry, and at Tulip, she pioneers the demand for knowledge in anticipation of an evolving world. Michelle believes that our culture must change accordingly and evolve with the appropriate safeguards in our processes. She joined Trond for episode 31 in 2021 to discuss the future of pharma and examine whether the fields of life sciences and software can embrace the resources needed.
“I really want life sciences to get to where they can take these things on quicker and faster and evolve better, ultimately achieving faster life cycles of our products. With personalized medicine and some of the other things that are happening out there, we need to be able to evolve fast. By jumping over to the other side, I felt that I could be more effective in trying to help the industry in that way. I jumped over for a reason, and I realize that reason, the fast-evolving scenario in technology, is so exciting that I want life sciences to be able to embrace that. Because of what’s happened in the last year, the industry is getting more primed to take on change and evolve and dive into an evolution that’s only quickening. I think the time is right.”
4. Surbhi Krishna Singh
Surbhi Krishna Singh has won awards for two engineering projects and built automation systems for semiconductor and memory giants that have helped companies like Micron and Seagate save billions in unproductive work hours. With her engineering, automation, and manufacturing background, she was able to transition into the semiconductor industry but later found several barriers halting the quality of production. Despite manufacturing being one of the most advanced fields in terms of technology, Surbhi observed how isolated each division felt and identified this aspect as a foundational problem. She created her company FireVisor to reduce the cost of product failure.
“I slowly started to see that while manufacturing was one of the most advanced fields in terms of tech, the advancements were spread out on these individual islands. There was no system connecting it all, which made managing quality very difficult, especially with the huge volume of data being produced. I couldn’t get this idea out of my head that I could envision a product that would change the way we work. What FireVisor does is we have productized AI-based quality management for manufacturing. We’re learning from the quality occurrences in the line to preempt engineers when it happens in the future. We are creating a product or system around it instead of just solving problems one-off. That way, we also become a part of the lens.”
5. Amy Feldman
Award-winning writer and journalist Amy Feldman is a Forbes senior editor. Her writing and editing of business, industrial manufacturing, and consumer products articles is remarkable for ushering discourse into the manufacturing space. Journalists and editors in the manufacturing industry are vital to multiple sectors. Some like Amy are often responsible for sparking transformative and disruptive thinking by covering stories that matter with a targeted approach to amplify specific pitches. She joined Trond on episode 39 in June 2021 to reflect on how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed industrial integration and to discuss the growing awareness of tech journalism.
“Ten years ago, we thought of tech journalism as a very specific thing. It was covering tech companies. There were these top companies that did tech, and then there were companies that didn't do tech. Now you think, okay, if you're covering agriculture, you might be covering robotics companies in agriculture where you're covering retail, but the backbone of all retail companies right now is data mining and AI. Whether you think of yourself as a tech journalist or not, if you're writing about business, you're, in some way, writing about tech. It underpins stories in the same way that all business or tech stories are also human stories.
6. Dayna Grayson
Dayna Grayson grew up in the heyday of the dot-com boom. As a result, she fosters a valuable perspective on equity, investment, entrepreneurship, and growth. A partner for eight years at NEA, Dayna was responsible for leading investments and cultivating a network of tech companies such as Desktop Metal, Formlabs, Guideline, and Tulip. She was also one of the first venture capitalists to build momentum around the tech sector, establishing a portfolio and co-founding Construct Capital alongside Rachel Holt, one of the first of 30 employees at Uber and the former head of the New Mobility unit. With a vision to bring early-stage investing to the forefront, Dayna knows what it takes to transform foundation industries into modern and automated ones to disrupt companies across several sectors. She has high hopes for the future of investing.
“If I zoom out as a venture capitalist, I’d say I've got early proof that there will be a turning point in these industries, manufacturing, supply chain, or production of any sort. We've seen an increasing number of investors turning their attention here just as they did in the enterprise SAS space from 2010 to 2015, and the same thing with consumer internet. I think we'll see more and more people turning their attention to these foundational industries, but we feel like it's time to have a dedicated fund (Construct Capital).”
7. Sarah Boisvert
With over 30 years of experience in tech, advanced manufacturing, and workforce training, Sarah Boisvert recognizes the need for visibility and access. She’s the founder of Fab Lab Hub, a community-based research lab, and New Collar Network, a reimagined network dedicated to educational training. She’s also the co-founder of Potomac Photonics, Inc. of Baltimore, Maryland, where she was involved in commercializing the Excimer laser used for LASIK. Sarah has a vested interest in fostering workforce transformation. Fab Lab classes teach advanced automation such as 3D printing, laser cutting, or even robotics.
“We teach people how to solve critical problems. Many of our labs are located in places like Asia or Africa, where there was a tremendous need and not enough resources. Necessity is the mother of invention, and our labs invent amazing things to help their communities. I did a lot of research trying to nail that down. When I got done figuring out what people needed in the factories, it seemed like digital badges were the fastest, easiest, most affordable way to certify the ability of a badge earner to work with a particular skill set.”
The emerging ideas of AI, sustainability, digital automation, and augmentation take on entirely new meanings when the leadership is diverse, inclusive, and reflective of the human experience. This list was assembled to honor some of the key trailblazers and elevate female role models in our developing field.
These episodes are just barely scratching the surface of what’s coming next in the digital factory, so please look out for Season 2 of Augmented. There are more conversations with industrial thought leaders and the stories that matter on the way. Stay tuned and follow us on AugmentedPod on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. We release a new episode every Wednesday at 9:00 EST here or in other places where podcasts can be found.
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