March 21st, 2019 is National Rosie the Riveter Day! In celebration, we wanted to highlight some women leaders in manufacturing in our community.

Bertha Glavin, President of the Massachusetts Bay chapter of the American Rosie the Riveter Association, spoke about women entering the workforce and doing “men’s work” in WWII:

“Men dismissed the working women at first, said they wouldn’t be able to do the work… Women showed them that we can do it.

The men on the front in France were expecting a new bomber that was much bigger than any previous models they had ever flown. They were afraid they weren’t going to be able to fly it, it was so huge. A pilot flew it over from the line. They watched it fly in and land, and out pops a little 18-year-old woman. They said, ‘She flew that across the ocean?’ They felt so flabbergasted. They said, ‘She can fly that? I guess we can too.’   

Everything has changed tremendously for women in my lifetime. We have a woman Senator, an Attorney General, a lot of women in politics, a Presidential candidate… Lawyers, doctors, dentists… All kinds of women doing different things. Women have progressed a lot.”  

Kim Knickle, Manufacturing Lead at Blue Metal

Kim Knickle, Manufacturing Lead at Blue Metal, spoke of the importance of role models for women and young girls.

“It’s important to have strong roles to show that women can do it. We want our friends, coworkers, families, bosses to know we can do it.”

Jennifer Milne, Product Manager at Formlabs

When Jennifer was 15, she worked at her neighbor’s steel fabricators in Scotland. She did CAD work, was very good at it, they offered her a job but she decided to go to University. At University, she didn’t have a sponsor, but took responsibility for her own self-motivation, and had an affinity for math and physics.

Stephanie Neil, Editor-in-Chief of OEM Magazine, Senior Editor at Automation World

One of the things she hears about the women she writes about in manufacturing — they don’t want to talk about work/life balance. One female CEO said, “I don’t want to come to the table and talk about needing to get home at 4:30 to get my children. I want to come to the table and let them know what I can bring to the table that’s unique.”

“We need to nurture girls asking why, and take the stigma away. They should be making things, not buying things.”

Micaelah Morrill, Acting Executive Director, Greentown Learn

Michaela helps startups meet local manufacturers so companies can make locally. She worked to help try to make manufacturing resurgence come back to MA under Deval Patrick.

“I’ve been lucky to get to know the women who came before me — they didn’t break the glass ceiling, they broke the whole machine.”  

“One of the things that’s most striking in manufacturing, is that it’s an incredible gateway out of poverty no matter your gender. The number of people in MFG is dwindling. We need to help with that. How do we market this? We need to get the message out there about these good-paying jobs. Trying to get that message out, particularly young women, is unbelievably important.”

Through the MFG initiative, Michaela tries to bring more startups onto the floor of manufacturing shops so that people can actually see that this is cool stuff, not the blue collar job of your grandfather. These people are solving interesting problems. “What I try to tell my clients is that it’s super cool you went to MIT or Harvard. So did these people running the machines. You have great ideas, but they’re going to solve your problems for you. When you look at it as problem solving, it becomes a new way to look at things.”   

Joann Michalik, Managing Director, Deloitte Consulting LLP, Smart Building Practice

Joanne has worked in manufacturing her whole career. She was really good at math and science in high school, and ended up winning Rensselaer medal and starting down a path of engineering. Engineering was less than 7% women in her time.

Dr. Eakins from her high school supported her, pushed her, and made her feel it was possible to be an engineer. Multiple men from her career pushed her along to take on new risks and responsibilities.

“We’re going to be 2-3 million people short in manufacturing. We have been seeing jobs coming back of China. We need to make sure we have diverse populations who are attracted to these jobs. There was a White House event changing the way we’re training our workforce. Why does it take 6 months to train a CNC lathe? It should be easy like gaming.”

“Manufacturing has changed. The benefits, hours, and pay are all better. GE today is about equal promotions, and equal opportunities. At Deloitte, we go out of our way to make sure there’s an equal slate. If there are 30% women graduating with engineering degrees, that’s the minimum percent we’re going to hire.”

During World War II, American women joined the workforce in unprecedented numbers and took on roles previously held by men. “Rosie the Riveter is a cultural icon and a representation of the more than 16 million working women who contributed to the war effort during World War II… Today, these women and their descendants wish to further advance these patriotic ideals of excellence in the workplace and loyalty to the United States of America.” – Massachusetts Governor Charles D. Baker, Rosie the Riveter Day, 2017

  • Between 1940 – 1945, the percent of women in the workforce jumped from 27% to nearly 37%.
  • The “Rosies” inspired future generations and empowered professional women to succeed today.
  • The gender gap in manufacturing remains significant. Women totaled 47% of the U.S. labor force in 2016, but only 29% of the manufacturing workforce.

For more information please see the Women in Manufacturing study conducted by The Manufacturing Institute, APICS, and Deloitte, as well as the U.S. Census, and visit WiM and the Manufacturing Institute’s STEP Ahead Awards (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production).