The Manufacturing Institute, an affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers, created the STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Ahead initiative to not only celebrate the accomplishments of outstanding women executives in manufacturing, but also to inspire the next generation of female leaders. A formal research initiative was launched with Deloitte to better understand why manufacturing isn’t attracting its fair share of talented women and to offer best practices for how manufacturers can attract, retain, and advance female talent.

AJ Jorgenson, director of communications at The Manufacturing Institute

AJ Jorgenson, director of communications at The Manufacturing Institute

ACMA is pleased and honored to report that The Manufacturing Institute selected past ACMA Chairwoman Lori Luchak-Olund, president Miles Fiberglass & Composites to receive the Women in Manufacturing STEP Award. Luchack-Olund, as well as 159 other honorees, received the award on February 6 during a Washington, DC ceremony, for demonstrating excellence and leadership in their careers.

As National Women’s History Month approaches, CM Interviews caught up with AJ Jorgenson, director of communications at The Manufacturing Institute, to discuss the importance of educating and empowering women in the manufacturing industry. Get her take on how to close the gender gap.

How can women be attracted to careers in manufacturing?

Women appreciate flexibility and opportunity in the workforce as well as the ability to adapt. Having those HR policies in place to encourage and support women in the workforce is really important. It’s about making sure we can empower the current manufacturing leaders to inspire the next generation of manufacturers.

What are the STEP Awards and what do they mean to the Manufacturing Institute?

The STEP (science, technology, engineering, production) Awards were launched in 2012 to honor and promote the role of women in manufacturing through recognition, research and leadership. Manufacturing places a skills gap and part of that gap is the underrepresentation of women in the industry. Over 80 percent of manufacturers can’t find the skilled workers they need. While women make up about 50 percent of the total U.S. workforce, they only make up about 25 percent in manufacturing. We are trying to help close the skills gap by closing the gender gap in manufacturing. One part of the fix to this: Encourage women to join the industry.

How has the program changed since its inaugural year?

This year one of the big things we announced a partnership with the National Girls Collaborative Project, a mentorship program. We’re asking our 160 honorees from this year and our honorees from last year to take up the call to action and be ambassadors in their own communities – going to their schools and encouraging young girls to get involved. We’re definitely growing; last year we had 122 honorees and this year we’re up to 160.