Top women influencers in manufacturing – Part 1

 “It is not inevitable, but it is highly likely, that manufacturing will remain male dominated for some time to come.” – Carol Burke, Head, Unipart Manufacturing

Representing 47 percent of the general workforce and only a third of the manufacturing workforce, women still remain an untapped resource. In order for the manufacturing industry to reach its full potential, women must be given equal opportunities for future employment. Women bring creativity, a different perspective, and thought leadership to the workplace, and make manufacturing stronger. From body shop shift leaders to industrial engineering and everything in between, women are now leading the manufacturing sector.

women in manufacturing

So what is it like to be a woman working in the manufacturing industry today? Is it good, bad, or ugly? There are a lot of women who have demonstrated excellence in these careers and are good role models for those women who want to build a career in manufacturing. Below are stories of some of the many inspiring women leaders in the manufacturing industry today:

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Mary Barra

CEO, General Motors

Mary Barra is the first female CEO of a big automaker and has held the CEO position since January 15, 2014. Barra started working for General Motors at the age of 18 as a co-op student and subsequently held a variety of engineering and administrative positions, including manager of the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant. In February 2008, she became Vice President of Global Manufacturing Engineering. In July 2009, she advanced to the position of Vice President of Global Human Resources, which she held until February 2011, when she was named Executive Vice President of Global Product Development. The latter position included responsibilities for design; she has worked to reduce the number of automobile platforms in GM. She is even described as a “car guy” with a focus on excellence in cars and trucks. Moreover, she’s a women in STEM and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Kettering University.

 Lisa Davis

Board Member, Siemens AG

Another woman of STEM, Lisa Davis studied chemical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley and holds a Bachelor of Science (Honors). Her special responsibilities at Siemens include Americas Power and Gas Division, Wind Power, Renewables Division, and Power Generation Services Division. Davis started her career in 1986 with Exxon Corporation, working as Engineer, Western Region Production and has worked at Royal Dutch, Shell for fourteen years managing different roles in engineering, R&D, and operations.

 Carol Burke

Managing Director, Unipart Manufacturing Group

Carol Burke started her career with the British Steel Corporation, working in very heavy engineering and then moved to GKN Axles Ltd. There she moved through various roles as foreman, production manager, works manager, and business manager. Her success with GKN helped her in being hired by Premier Exhaust Systems Ltd, a part of Unipart manufacturing group in 1994, as manufacturing manager. She was Midlands Business Woman of the Year in 2005 and won CBI Woman of the Year Award for Manufacturing in 2006. In addition, she was awarded the Nuffield medal for achievement in manufacturing in 2008. Burke graduated from Liverpool University and holds degrees of BE (Honors) in Mechanical Engineering and MSc (Eng) in Advanced Manufacturing Systems.

Linda Hasenfratz

CEO, Linamar Corporation

Linda Hasenfratz started out as a machine operator at Linamar, eventually serving as General Manager of the Vehcom Manufacturing and Comtech Manufacturing Ltd. Divisions before becoming President and then, eventually, CEO. She was awarded the Ernst & Young Ontario Entrepreneur of the Year Award in Manufacturing in October 2014. Less than a month later, she was chosen as Entrepreneur of the Year for all of Canada. Linamar creates precision products that provide the light vehicle, commercial truck, off-highway, energy, and industrial OEM markets with powertrain system solutions.

Barb Samardzich

Vice President and COO, Ford (Europe)

Barb Samardzich started working as chief engineer for F-Series Super Duty commercial trucks and as quality director for Ford-brand products in Ford Europe. She has held a variety of positions in Powertrain Engineering, including being chief engineer for Ford’s Automatic Transmission Operations, where she won the prestigious Women in Engineering Achievement Award from Design News in 2004. Samardzich eventually worked her way up to vice president, Product Development, Ford Europe, and then to her current role of chief operating officer.

These women illustrate the impact women have on shaping the manufacturing industry. Whether they are running the company, designing the next big product, or testing innovations on the shop floor, these women, and others like them, are highly successful and are perfect role models for young women in the industry.

Know about inspiring women in the manufacturing sector? Write to us and we will feature them in this series.

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