Women comprise 47 percent of the U.S. workforce. Despite this fact, they make up less than 25 percent of personnel at manufacturing companies. The National Association of Women in Manufacturing (WIM) attributes the lack of female representation to the American public having a mixed view of manufacturing jobs; not surprisingly, the view from the inside is quite different. Here, AMERICAN strives to add more women to our ranks and in leadership roles. In tribute to women who choose careers in the industry, here are just three of our own women in manufacturing who are defying the odds.
Rosemary Smud, Sales Engineer
A study done by WIM found that 82 percent of women working in manufacturing said the field offers interesting/challenging work that young women are seeking. Such was the case for ADIP Senior Sales Engineer Rosemary Smud.
“I enjoy that my job gives me new and interesting things to do every day; there are never two days that are the same,” said Smud, who is based in AMERICAN’s West Coast District Sales Office in California. “I love traveling, interacting with customers and solving problems, as opposed to working in one place every day.”
A native of Auburn, Georgia, Smud’s favorite subjects in school were math and science, and she loved figuring out how things work and why. Engineering was a natural fit when she entered college at Georgia Tech, and she gravitated toward a bachelor’s degree in industrial and systems engineering when she heard about the diversity of jobs and demand for ISYE graduates. Following graduation, Smud had more than 30 interviews with interested companies and more than nine job offers. “I chose AMERICAN because it was listed as a top 100 best companies to work for, and this truly showed in everyone’s attitude when I visited Birmingham,” Smud said. “I am fortunate to work for a company that stands behind quality products.”
Smud would go on to earn her MBA from University of California-Davis, and to hold various offices on the sectional and association levels of the American Water Works Association (AWWA), including vice president, among others. “Through serving as a leader for AWWA, I was able to make other female friends in the water industry,” Smud said. “One of my goals was to show that even though the water industry is male dominated it does not mean women are handicapped or inferior in any way. Women play a very important role in advancing our industry to the next level.”
Wanda Little, Casting Leadman
At 5 feet, Wanda Little is the self-described “runt” of her family. Though she’s a middle sister, because of her height, she’s known as “the baby sister, ” and her co-workers refer to her as “Mrs. Little.” However, there’s nothing “little” about Wanda Little’s attitude and drive to succeed. Little has been leadman in DIP’s No. 3 Casting for six years, a role not previously held by a woman at the company. “People tell me I made history,” Little said. “Working in a manufacturing facility is definitely a different experience, but it’s not something a woman can’t do.” Originally from New Jersey, Little’s mom, dad and sister all worked in manufacturing.
The WIM study found that one of the greatest barriers to women choosing careers in manufacturing is an antiquated perception of the industry. Many see it as warehouse or facility work in a male-dominated environment. While Little does work in a manufacturing facility and many of her co-workers are male, she said women shouldn’t let this stop them from seeing the opportunities to be had there. Little is leadman over her shift’s cleanup crew — six men — and it’s their job to make sure the shop is clean, prepped and ready for pipe to cast. Little’s work ensures no delays in the pipe making process once it starts. Her job has allowed her the financial stability to take her family (she’s a grandmother of eight) on many wonderful trips each year, and her goal is to continue working her way to the top.
“I came in with the determination that I was going to work hard and smart,” Little said. “I love my job and my co-workers. Give respect, and you’ll get respect. Women are strong minded. Don’t get content doing easy stuff; step up.”
Thea Jones, PPIM Manager
According to the WIM study, 74 percent of women working in manufacturing agree that the industry offers multiple job roles for women. No woman knows the truth of this statement better than AMERICAN’s Manager of Production Planning and Inventory Management (PPIM) Thea Jones. With a marketing degree from UAB, Jones began work at AMERICAN as a co-op in the Marketing Department, never really intending to seek a career in manufacturing, and accepted a job offer following that. During her tenure with the company, she has held roles in Marketing, Customer Service and PPIM for both ADIP and ASWP.
A self-described “tomboy” as a child, Jones grew up with brothers who both became engineers, and she never felt intimidated by the manufacturing environment. A few years into her career, Jones realized she needed more of a challenge so she talked to her managers, who were all men. “They were supportive,” Jones said. “They mentored me and found things for me to do that gave me the experience I needed to obtain my current position.”
Jones became manager of PPIM in 2014 — the first woman to hold that department title — and she is APICS certified in Production Inventory Management. Her role oversees the scheduling of DIP operations, which ensures sales orders are efficiently translated to the production areas. She enjoys the challenge of coming up with creative solutions when issues arise during production that might keep the customer from getting their order on time. “I’ve never felt that being a woman was a disadvantage here,” Jones said. “If I’m the only woman in a meeting, I often have a different perspective that is helpful. Women should not cave to preconceived notions about any industry. Focus instead on tasks you might enjoy doing.”