Industry Expert Series - The Gender Gap in Manufacturing [Video]

Manufacturing pioneer Carol Latham, HR leader Jill Kissack, and TeamSense CEO Sheila Stafford got together to discuss the Gender Gap in HR & Manufacturing.

| Updated: Apr 27, 2022

  

In a relatable and insightful conversation, Sheila, Jill, and Carol talk through their own experiences encountering gender bias in the workplace and offer advice to those looking to break into management in a male-dominated industry.

This is for everyone from those starting their careers to today’s HR leaders and CEOs who care about supporting opportunities for women to grow and lead.

Speakers

  • Carol Latham, author of A Chip Off the Silicon Block: The Power of Entrepreneurial Thinking
  • Jill Kissack, HR Talent Advisor of Kincentric
  • Sheila Stafford, CEO of TeamSense

Topics Covered

  • Data around the gender gap in management and manufacturing
  • Personal experiences on encountering bias and harassment in the workplace
  • Advice for those looking to further their careers in male-dominated industries
  • The importance of mentors and building your own personal board of directors
  • Why allyship is crucial in eliminating gender bias
  • The great resignation and talent uprising
  • How to handle bias when you encounter it in the workplace
  • The importance of finding a company that fits your values and goals

  

Watch 'The Gender Gap in Manufacturing' Full Video


  

Full Transcript

Sheila
Hello everyone. Thanks again for joining us again. I'm Sheila Stafford, CEO of teamsense. TeamSense creates app-free digital tools that connect, engage, and enable the desk-less workforce. And I'll be your host today. I'm honored to host the conversation with these two incredible women. You see on your screen Carol Latham and Jill Kissick Carol, why don't you take a moment and introduce yourself.


Carol
I'm Carol Latham, and I've been in manufacturing pretty much. My career. I started with BP, which is kind of an extreme example, and then left there and started my own business, which was in manufacturing and made materials that went into electronics to help dissipate heat. I have recently published a book, chip off the Silicon block, which describes my entrepreneurial experience.


Sheila
Fantastic, welcome Carol and Jill.


Jill
Hi, I've had 20 years in the HR space. I've been consulting as well as working for Whirlpool corporation and as the chief people officer for a company called Kincentric, a leadership advisory firm that works with CHROs and their teams to really unlock the power of people and teams. I'm happy to be here.


Sheila
Awesome. Well welcome. So, our topic today is the gender gap in manufacturing, and most importantly, what to do about it. As a former engineer myself, I think the best way to get us going, is to just get some data to the problem that we're trying to solve. First, it's been widely reported that companies that have women well-represented across the ranks can achieve up to 50% higher profits and higher share performance. This is not a matter of dollars and cents for companies. They understand that, but there's something else that tends to be holding us back. Digging further companies that tend to focus on gender parody can achieve that for entry-level roles, right? That makes sense. It's a relatively easy task, right? That you bring in, the folks to the right ratios. When you dig further that it's the next step where this starts to fall apart. People refer to this as the broken ladder.


Sheila
To put some perspective on it, the broken ladder is impacting, all industries, not just manufacturing. For this first supervisory role or this first promotion, well, 86 women are promoted for every 100 men into that first role. Now, if you narrow this further into technical roles, the gap widens, and so only 52 women for every a hundred men are promoted. Now, if you look at manufacturing specifically, sadly it shrinks even further. Only 33 women are promoted for every 100 men. Now, the lack of diversity across the ranks impacts more than that bottom line. I mentioned, obviously, it impacts women's livelihood the view of women in society, and it could impact their decision to leave the workforce, which therefore we can see rippling effects across the economy. Starting off Carol, you're a pioneer, a woman who spent her career building a company in manufacturing in the technology sector.


Sheila
And, as you mentioned, you even wrote a book about it, given the data I just shared and what we're doing. Do you think we are improving as a society as you entered the field? What advice might you have for folks looking to actually accelerate?


Carol
I think there is some improvement. I, I can't quantify it, but I ha I would least like to believe there is however, what was the second part of the question? So.


Sheila
How do you accelerate kind of the progress? What advice do you have?


Carol
Well, I think that you need to understand your core values and your goals and really analyze your risk tolerance and really figure out where in this whole maze of businesses you're, you can best fulfill those goals. You can go to a small, not a household name company, where there will be a fair amount of diversity, a lot more innovation, probably more interesting jobs, and probably a more collaborative lifestyle management style, excuse me, but you will incur more risks, not all businesses prosper, but on the other hand, you can go with a large online company where it's going to be more homogeneous. It's going to be less innovative, more based on the status quo and slows it slower to change, and probably more command and control management style, but you will have security and there'll be minimal risk. So I think you need to choose. We, you know, life is about choices.


Carol
I think to have to choose wisely where you think your goals can fit is very important.


Sheila
I love that. I love the focus on values and kind of the thought of the difference between big companies and small companies that doesn't always come to mind. That is something that's really important for folks to think about and how to accelerate their own careers. Julia, given your profession and specifically HR, should organizations out there prioritize leadership development for women.


Jill
I think that's a great question, Sheila. I will have to tell you I'm a little tired of putting women into a room and teaching them how to be a man. If that's the approach to leadership development, I would say probably not. I think that you do want to make sure that you're giving women access to the same opportunities and skills and training and development that you are the rest of the organization. It's important to look at your data in terms of, are you sending women to their same trainings? Are they getting the right opportunities on big projects? I think if you really want to do a leadership development plan and program, I actually think getting the men in the room and teaching them how to be allies, looking for mansplaining and looking for shared accountability in terms of we've, we all have a role to play in terms of making sure women are successful.


Jill
I think there's some value in, having a development program, but having it focused both on women and men and their supervisors and their people leaders and their business leaders about what they can also do to improve.


Carol
Yeah. I couldn't agree more. I agree with that. Yes.


Sheila
I love that. Maybe later we can touch on like, how might somebody, develop those allies and really, how do they, how do you make that ask? Or you guys can give our audience a bit of a hint. Like, how do you recommend that they first identify like, is this person, friend or foe? Like, what are the assets they should have of this person, to help kind of close this gap.


Jill
You want us to go that with that now,


Sheila
Why don't we take it now?


Jill
Sure. Maybe I'll start. And Carol then whatever comes to mind. I think you have to, one is, sometimes you have a tendency to look for other women and want them to be your mentors, but I think you really need to think about who's going to know your work best. Making sure that you're picking mentors know your work. The second thing though, I do think that is important and it's really difficult, but I think it's really important that you have to be, you have to share your story. You have to be willing to share your experience around, I have two kids are older now, but like, Hey, I have a soccer game I want to get to. You have to be willing to share and be more vulnerable so that they can get to know you, and then they can start to understand the world and the context that you live in.


Jill
I think that's how we're, that's how we're going to make progress.


Carol
You know, I would agree. Yeah. I think that we want to, women should be able to differentiate themselves and to speak their piece and not try to emulate the man because again, having the men and women together in the same room creates two perspectives that really enhance one another and create really a dynamic situation. It's this working together and resting, not being hung up on the fact that you're, there seems to be, I was in meetings with primarily men, but you concentrate more on what the goal is in your meeting rather than who is there and what kind of titles they have. I think that's more of a formula for success.


Sheila
Great advice from both of you. Thank you. Changing but still along kind of the same vein looking at Jill, like you have wrote lots of articles about just talent uprising. We're at such a unique moment in time with our economy, like knock on wood, hopefully coming out of a pandemic and looking at manufacturing specifically, it's clear that employees, especially women need more support. What advice or what should HR, departments do, or what might they be thinking about, related to both kind of the gender aspect to it, as well as the overall, labor shortage that we're seeing.


Jill
Great question. Yeah. I mean, I think you hear a lot of doom and gloom around in the media, around the great resignation. I actually, we do, I think about it more as a talent uprising, it's the idea that all the tide rises all boats, right? Yes, well individuals and employees have a much greater say in when and how they work organizations that are gonna make it through this great resignation should be really looking at what are they doing and looking at the way they think about work and changing that. I think that could be positive for both, but I think to your specifically to answer your question too, around things organizations can do, I think it's about one being really transparent around your talent practices, being very clear around what does it take to get that promotion, making sure that you're giving individuals great feedback along the way about what's getting there.


Jill
I think there's peace in an element about making sure that you are, have a really supportive culture and making sure that people can bring their whole self to work. That's that is representative of what you want to deliver from an employee experience. I'm not a hundred percent sure that women are going to need something more than men, but I do think there's a lot of things companies can do in this day and age to really think about building and developing careers for women and men in their organization.


Carol
Yes. I think just to add one other thing, I think having an advocate within your company within your environment is very important. Something I found very lacking is I was trying to make my way,


Jill
I couldn't agree more.


Sheila
Yeah. I love it. Let's humanize the session a little bit. You both have had, experiences throughout your career where you faced a challenge because of the bias. The hashtag breaking the bias is a real thing that people are dealing with, years ago, as well as today. Can you guys share with the audience, a personal story about where you felt that you had to break the bias yourself in order to advance your career?


Carol
Mine, please. Crazy. Yes. I mean, when I was at BP, I really got, so I believed there was no way to succeed. For example, I was, I endured harassment. I mean, I had company mail go awry or be missing. I mean, so that's not so bad. I had, someone's squirting my personal computer with acetone and some of my integrating equipment. The keys all stick together renders it useless. And it slows your work. I mean, yeah, incapacitate you basically say, well, that was one thing, but the ultimate was one day. I actually had someone try to blow up my experiment. You can, we can talk about the who's and the why's that we're doing this. My point is that management did not support me at all. There was no interest in getting to the bottom of it, figuring out what had happened, and correcting any issues.


Carol
In fact, they told me I needed to watch my experiments more carefully. Really. Unbelievable. I mean, it was a crazy environment.


Sheila
Yeah. That is crazy. It's no wonder that you left BP and started your own company, but even, as the founder, CEO, and inventor of this incredible material, I imagine that you saw some bias and that, could you tell us a story related to like when you are the big chief and now you're responsible, you, do you still get that same kind of feeling?


Carol
Well, it was different within my company. We were about even 50 men and women. There, the issues weren't within the company itself, but when I went out into the world to promote the product and the reception I got being totally unknown and a woman, probably not quite looking the part and having a new company unknown, you were very vulnerable. I mean, for example, T told me one day, well, how is it you think you can do this better than everybody else? Well, and they were very not nice and so well that, they would stick with it. They were using it. Okay. But I mean, this is definitely biased. And, and it was interesting because I was doing this in Cleveland, Ohio, and I could look to the east, which was AT&T, and get this kind of an attitude. I could look to Silicon Valley and the west coast and where I had great people who were eager to try new things and to, make, and, and at least have a look.


Sheila
Even there, you had resistance, it took a long time, sometimes many visits to convince them that yeah, what I had was really maybe the only way they were going to solve their problems and get their com their electronic equipment working properly. It existed definitely on that end as well.


Sheila
I love it. I mean, your success, it was just in pure results and performance, right? Like you broke through because your invention, which is so far superior than the others, which, is a shame that you just have to like 10 X perform the other to like, break that bias. An incredible story that you're able to do that. Yeah, we stand in shoulders a giant. Jill, do you have an example you want to share?


Jill
I do it, maybe it's more humorous than Carol. So, but I had the opportunity to live in Italy for two years with my jobs, my family and I moved and my kids and I were in a tourist spot in Milan and ran into some American women and started talking about the fact that we actually lived in Italy. We weren't just visiting and just, weren't a tourist. The woman turned to my children and said, man, your daddy must have a very important job. I was the one. I had to explain to them that, Nope, it was my job. It was my career by which we had ended up here. So, it's one of those things where I think you do encounter, it is in small things, just again, meaning to wrists on the streets. For me, it was more, probably important than to talk to my children about it.


Jill
And, it has been important to I have an 11-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old son. It's been more important for me to make sure that I'm setting that example for our future and the next generation so that they can see women being very successful out in the workplace.


Sheila
Yeah. I love that. The harmonic thing about your story is when you think of Italy, it's a very masculine society and your example is Americans and Italy like Satur, but thank you for sharing that as an example.


Carol
Yeah. The one in Korea, the same ideas. Yeah. Yeah. Just that it was a similar experience where, w why would you send a woman over here to do this job, kind of thing. And yeah. It's just, I tried to just take it as they don't understand the culture. And, I, I think that's the best way to deal with these things. Not let not let them get in the way of your progress to kind of just rise above all that and move on.


Sheila
Yeah, that's a great kind of tidbit is just to rise above that and move on, both of you have seen success respective in your career. If you think back, like what advice would you give your younger self?


Carol
Well, I would tell myself to better probably than I did understand my goals and what I was expecting out of my work experience and really what my risk tolerance was so that I could make better decisions. So, I would say if you, especially the young and I do work with young people, young engineers, and technical people if they can think about where their goals would best met. Often they gravitate to the large, old-line companies, which I think is create success, particularly for women is more difficult. Just, you know, life is about choices. Being able to think more through better than what I was able to do at the time when I accepted my job with BP, I mean, if I had a better understanding of what my goals and what my risk factor was, I would be able to make better choices.


Sheila
Yeah. I love that jump.


Jill
I think if I were to go back, I think there's an element of whenever I did encounter a bias early on in my career, I met it with anger or it got upset and it was off-putting to people. Somewhat, I think I ended doing was shutting down some of those conversations when I could have had the opportunity. What I, now I understand more is that it is infuriating to encounter bias in this situation. I think, taking a pause and actually again, being vulnerable enough to explain why this is so bothersome and really share my lived experience with others. I think I would have gotten maybe further than just reacting and calling someone an a-hole because they said something or did something that I might've done in the past. I think it's really about sharing yourself and being vulnerable to really, again, share your experience with others so that they can learn from it.


Sheila
Yeah. I love that. As you think about, some folks that like everybody gets to where they're going with a lot of help from mentors and a personal board of directors or friends or people that had have given them advice, could you describe a situation where, one of your mentors kind of helped you and pointed you into the right direction and how you've kind of shaped your own, we'll say personal board of directors and a group of folks that you look to help you with some of these difficult conversations and really big, decisions on how you manage your career and your, your opportunities.


Carol
Yeah. I had a very significant person, a pop-up from one of my investors. They asked if I would agree to a meeting with Arthur Anderson and I would always say yes, and so, and I was like a fly on the wall, really livable. W w were just starting up and oh, in Waltz's Arthur Anderson. I think it, I don't even know if I knew at the time, but he was, I think he was the market VP of marketing, but he brought with him this other gentleman, which I didn't quite know how he fits into the whole picture, but I, and I started to explain what I was doing. This gentleman, he took me under wing immediately. He said, if you need anything, just call me anytime. As fate would have it, I mean, it was within a month. I think several weeks I had, one of my main competitors have made me an offer to buy the company.


Carol
Were still really little so, the company was not for sale, but I always entertained the discussion about it, so I call Paul and he went with me to Boston and I mean, he became my mentor. I mean, we blew them away. They made them realize their offer was just way below what, but he was key from that time going forward to be my financial advisor, it was not, he didn't do the nitty-gritty of my taxes. He'd look them over and make sure everything was okay. It was the real strategic mentor, which was very meaningful for someone in my position.


Sheila
I love that. I mean, the early sign of what we'd call an ally today,


Carol
I wanna add one thing because I think they deserve the kudos. As I started down this road, they literally worked for me for nothing. I think you never hear those stories. I mean, I think it needs to be told because that was incredible until I could, got my on my feet and could afford, and that kind of advice. I think they were trying to find young entrepreneurs. I think they've made a conscious effort in their strategy, but, I wasn't in on their strategy meetings. I wasn't, I just didn't understand immediately, but wow. How grateful.


Sheila
Awesome. Well, I'm going to jump to a question actually for you, Jill, that came in from the chat from Cheryl, she says, how can I ask support from HR to help develop my career? She's been trying to break into middle management at a large manufacturer of auto parts. It's really struggling, and like what things should she ask for and how might she get both that kind of Allie ship? I can't even pronounce the word and movement to actually break through.


Jill
I think you, my advice really is to, I would talk to HR for sure. I would let them know, what are your career aspirations? What are you hoping to get from your next assignment? What are you looking for so that they have a top of mind, your aspirations, and what we're looking for, and then any feedback they may have for you in terms of development programs or projects to work on? I think HR can help sometimes get visibility, but I wouldn't just stop there. I probably would have conversations with other business leaders as well. I think the more people know your aspirations and the more people can, you can engage them to help give me feedback if there's something I do in a meeting that you see that's counterintuitive, or, is there a development program that I can do? Is there a project that can get on?


Jill
Is there somebody I could shadow? I think there are a lot of ways that you can continue to build your skills. I would start the conversation with HR for sure, but I would also encourage that person to make sure that they're talking to the other business leaders. It could be your immediate manager, but I wouldn't be afraid to reach out to other people in the organization as well.


Sheila
Would you recommend that they take a very specific approach and understand, what it takes on paper to achieve that next level?


Jill
I do. I think it's important. I mean, I think that there was a McKinsey article that I read around this topic. They talked a lot about being really clear in terms of the specific skills that need to be built and what people are looking for in the role. I think the more that you can understand that sometimes companies have that available, but it's also really difficult. They don't always have that information, but the more you can get really specific around what are the specific skills and experience that they're looking for at that next level or to get that promotion, I think will help you put together your own development plans to make sure that you're there, that you're meeting those needs.


Carol
Yeah, that goes back. I think having an advocate because sometimes you don't have that. If someone isn't willing to represent to present what you may have to offer in those, it becomes very difficult. I think advocates are very important.


Jill
I can't agree more. I think the more people who know what you want to do, then they been there in the meeting, like staffing the project or making the decisions you continue to come to mind.


Carol
And I think this is a story. This is a classic story where it can prohibit people from choosing these kinds of fields. These, aren't the kinds of stories that we want to be going forward because it's not the message. We want the message that the opportunities are there and that this is exciting work and you need, we need to be supporting. So,


Sheila
Oh, there's another question in the chat. Someone who feels as though they're surrounded with folks that just don't show up for women. What steps do you recommend that they take to open those doors and encourage a more collaborative environment and try to ask, those other folks to open their minds up and, take a broader view.


Carol
Oh, I thought a lot about this actually, since I've been in those situations, I think you don't want to emulate the man and you don't want to ever try to one-up the man that's never gonna work. You need to create your own brand and set yourself apart, according to your skills and your work or your projects or product or whatever it is that you're involved in. Just try to overlook some of that, but not, I, I, I'm not saying that's always going to work, but I think it's helpful to, and also to not take yourself too seriously to try to make it fun and try to have a collaborative relationship with the men, because they both bring this an important piece to the table. And, if we work together, I mean, we've got this, we've got this handled, we can do this. Yeah.


Jill
I also think there's a sense of, I mean, you're not like some of them, you're just not going to win over and that's okay. I think there's of the beating your head against the door and you don't want to do that. I do think, again, it goes back to I there's this my experiences when you're willing to share what's going on in your personal life and your lived experience with others and be vulnerable. That's really hard if you're the only woman and the only one, maybe with young kids, she was rushing out to get daycare or to want to go to the soccer game. It's really difficult and hard to have to raise your voice and say, Hey, I want to end this meeting early because I got a soccer game I got to get to. The more I think you can do that. The more you start to share what your experience and be vulnerable with folks, I find that's really helpful.


Jill
Sometimes. I don't think it's intentional. I think that, if there is, and I don't want to over-generalize, but if they have a wife that is at home, that takes care of everything, they don't understand your lived experience of trying to manage all of the things that you maybe have to manage. Sometimes just being willing to share your stories with folks, I think helps on the allyship.


Carol
I'm sure. I think it needs maybe to come from top-down to make sure that the people that are managing in the middle of somewhere and convey, I mean, you can talk about it, but doing it another thing. And, and if you get other men who you can come by and I mean, the other men might kind of influence someone. Who's very difficult, man. A lot of men unfortunately are victims of their backgrounds and their upbringing and where they came from, for me, it seemed like it got easier as the men, the younger men seemed to be more understanding the ones, certainly not from my generation. It was impossible. But anyway, yes. Yeah, I think that if you can win some of them over that will help when all of them all over by all the things you've mentioned. So it's not easy. Yes.


Jill
And it's true. I think men holding each, that the man in the room or somebody let's even, not men or women, but like someone who was not the normative right in the room saying, Hey, by the way, you passed over, Sheila did say that 10 minutes ago, then pointing it out is much better than you pointing it out. Hey, I said that 10 minutes ago, no one listened to me play out. The thing that I think is really true, right? The more men can, and I hate to, I hate saying men all the time, but the people that are the dominant, if you're conscious of that and watching for it, I think they have out stronger poles sometimes in the room and the person who maybe is in the minority.


Sheila
That's awesome. Yeah. There was one thing that I would add is if you're invited to a meeting, you're invited to give your opinion, not just to, be a wallflower and take it in like take an opportunity and be sure to speak at least one time and track yourself, say like, okay, my goal is to, add something unique to this conversation at least once, and then continue to update it in practice that muscle, just so that, you start to be viewed as that thought leader and that contributor and why they've invited you in the first place.


Carol
You also, you be could contribute to making sure every voice in the room is heard. I mean, I think that's important, if you're encouraging others and maybe others will encourage you, courage, you maybe possibility.


Sheila
Perfect. We are just actually over time. I do want to give kind of one of your and folks kind of on the live zoom with us. If you guys can just give a quick wrap-up on, your top advice for what you'd recommend for the folks on the call. I just personally want to thank you both for your time here and feel free to reach out to any of the speakers. We are listing all of the information in the chat. We're happy to connect with anyone from the session and carry on the conversation or for any advice, let us know, but let's go with the wrap. Jill, why don't you go first?


Jill
I still just say, bring your whole self to work.


Sheila
Love it, Carol.


Carol
Similar. Yes, Know your value and articulate it, don't be afraid to be out of your comfort zone and let your skills and goals lead your efforts.


Sheila
Awesome. Well, again, a huge round of applause. Thank you both for your time. Thanks to everyone for attending. We look forward to connecting with you. Take care, everyone.


Jill
Thank you.


Carol
Thank you, then a pleasure.


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