Despite making up about 47 percent of the U.S. workforce, women only account for about 27 percent of manufacturing workers. A national association called Women in Manufacturing (WiM) is working to attract, retain and advance women in manufacturing, and a group of women in Kentucky is joining the effort.
Chaired by Shauna Leis, senior manager of global supplies operations, the Kentucky WiM chapter launched in February. Before forming the chapter, Leis reached out to manufacturers and educational institutions in the Lexington area to gauge interest. The response was overwhelmingly positive. The first chapter meeting, hosted by Trane at its Lexington plant, was attended by 45 women from 15 different companies in Lexington and Louisville.
“Manufacturing is the highest revenue industry in Kentucky, and there’s a huge gap of the workforce that could be filled with women — manufacturing’s largest pool of undeveloped talent,” Leis said. “Our Kentucky chapter is a wonderful opportunity for women in the industry to network, learn from each other, grow leadership skills, and help promote careers in manufacturing across the Commonwealth.”
In Kentucky, more than 2,500 companies have a manufacturing designation, representing more than 240,000 jobs.
“As a growing national organization, we aspire to eventually have a community chapter in every state, and our WiM Kentucky Chapter is another step toward this goal,” said Allison Grealis, founder and president, Women in Manufacturing. “Women across the country are seeking an industry support network and I’m proud that Women in Manufacturing is fulfilling this need. I am a true believer in WiM’s purpose and have a passion for manufacturing as well as networking, so it is exciting to have the opportunity to bring women in Kentucky together.”
Leis plans quarterly meetings for the Kentucky WiM chapter — the second meeting is scheduled in May at the GE Appliance Park in Louisville — and she’s also been invited to speak to area high school and college students about career opportunities in manufacturing. She said many people hold a narrow view of what a career in manufacturing looks like.
“Making the widget is such a small piece of manufacturing,” she said. “Career opportunities abound across business areas such as sales and marketing, supply chain and logistics, finance, human resources and sustainability, in addition to software development and IT support needed for global operations. It’s incredible what manufacturing represents today.”
For more information, visit the WiM website.
To register for the May 19 chapter meeting in Louisville, click here.