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Building Manufacturing Careers: Discover How Manufacturers Are Engaging Women to Fill the Workforce

The manufacturing industry is facing more than just a lack of talent. Manufacturers must carefully chip away at the glass ceiling that’s historically deterred women from pursuing careers in manufacturing, while also overcoming the reputation gap that’s daunted the industry for years.

West Virginia Women Work

Thankfully, a new wave of organizations has surfaced that are dedicated to abolishing false perceptions, promoting career opportunities and inspiring women to join a movement that’s igniting a powerful force within the future of manufacturing.


Allison Grealis, founder and president of Women in Manufacturing (WiM)
Allison Grealis, founder and president of Women in Manufacturing (WiM)


One organization that’s boldly championing a brighter future for the industry and fiercely shattering false perceptions is Women in Manufacturing (WiM), a more than 700-member-strong national association dedicated to advancing women in manufacturing. WiM provides year-round support for thousands of women in the manufacturing sector, and according to Allison Grealis, the organization’s founder and president, educational programs are at the forefront of its national efforts.


“We are dedicated to reaching women where they are, when and how it works for them,” she explains.


Last fall, WiM established the WiMEF, the 502 c3 arm of WiM, which produces funding for a variety of programs to help women across the country further their own success in manufacturing careers. This year, it will host the second Leadership Lab for women in manufacturing that provides executive training for women managers and senior leaders in the industry. In addition, WiM offers a series of in-person and webinar trainings as well as an annual conference to bring women in the industry together.


“We create space for women to discuss their unique experiences and learn from each other. Women leave our events – whether webinars or SUMMIT meetings – feeling buoyed by each other, perhaps for the first time,” said Grealis. “When women are energized and motivated to chase their own success, manufacturing will thrive.”


While organizations such as WiM are working tirelessly to secure bright futures for women across the country, state-sponsored initiatives are also doing their part to discover and train local talent. For example, West Virginia Women Work recently launched the Step Up for Women Advanced Manufacturing Pre-Apprenticeship program. The tuition-free, 10-week program, which is funded through a sub-grant of the Robert C. Byrd Institute’s (RBCI) Apprenticeship Works Initiative, offers hands-on training for women to succeed in advanced manufacturing careers.


Melinda Perron, program coordinator at West Virginia Women Work
Melinda Perron, program coordinator at West Virginia Women Work


West Virginia Women Work’s program coordinator Melinda Perron said the program provides firsthand machining training, as well as the opportunity to learn soft skills required to flourish in the workforce. In addition to teaching women technical skills and honing in on resume building and interview preparation, Step Up for Women offers gas reimbursement, work clothing and other essentials that can set women up for success as they embark upon their new career.


Perron added that initiatives like Step Up for Women are crucial for the future of manufacturing because they help women realize their potential for rewarding, prosperous careers in an industry that has been discounted by many.


“This apprenticeship program is really about uniting and training women to succeed in manufacturing careers,” said Perron. “We are trying to get these women trained to help fill the skills gap and also empower them to be economically self-sufficient.”


“There is a lot of incentive to get more people into the field right now,” she continued. “Many careers that are traditionally considered more common for women in this area simply do not pay enough for women to support themselves and their families. But, these careers are actually highly-skilled positions that pay very well.”

"When women are energized and motivated to chase their own success, manufacturing will thrive."
Allison Grealis, Founder and President

Women in Manufacturing (WiM)

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a contributing author and not necessarily Gray.

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