STEP Awardees Urge Next Generation of Women to Pursue High-Tech Manufacturing Careers

Last month we brought you a story about two STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production)
awardees from Hoerbiger Corporation of America in Pompano Beach Florida. In our continuing series highlighting the role and contributions of women in manufacturing, this month we highlight three additional STEP awardees from Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems America, Inc. in Orlando, FL. The women awardees, in this story, hail from different points of the corporate continuum, each characterizing their unique contributions to MHPSA’s successful operations and production.

Jessica Glover started working as an intern, part-time at MHPSA, while working to earn a degree in
industrial engineering from the University of Central Florida. She has been working at MHPSA for the last 7 years, but has always harbored a passion for manufacturing which she says “requires strong problem-solving skills and team work.” Ivonne Pacheco is in charge of clerical administration control and has been at MHPSA for approximately two years. Lisa Gilkinson was the third employee from MHPSA to receive the 2014 Women in Manufacturing STEP Award. Gilkinson, who is the global sourcing manager for MHPSA’s power generation services department, says manufacturing has been a core part of her life especially since she grew up in the rust belt. Over the course of time, Gilkinson has watched industries die. Against that backdrop, innovation and investment in new technology, she says are cornerstones for success and sustainability in a global market.

No matter the exposure, the STEP awards have a made a huge impact in each of their lives and carries the overarching theme of empowering women in manufacturing as well as passing the baton for future women to pursue careers in STEM. The award “proves that women do not need to follow society’s stereotypical expectations of what careers to pursue—women can succeed in any career” even in a male-dominated work environment said Ivonne. “The STEP award to me means inspiring the next generation of talented young women to pursue careers in manufacturing,” and empowering women to be the best that they can be no matter the career path said Jessica.

The awards ceremony and recognition banquet added to the sense of achievement and spirit of the awards. “I loved meeting so many inspirational women from all different places, career paths and walks of life” said Jessica. Getting to meet and spend the day with a diverse group of women was a real honor too. Lisa recalls sitting next to a father of one of the honorees who shared the same passion for manufacturing as his daughter, but noted her innovative spirit that created opportunities and fueled business growth.

Indeed, it was a string of amazing and positive stories that marked the success of each STEP awardee and MHPSA has taken an extra step by highlighting these employees as well as affording them additional opportunities to inspire and expand on their expertise. MHPSA has showcased all three STEP Award recipients in the monthly newsletter that gets distributed to worldwide employees. MHPSA has also sought students pursuing engineering and manufacturing degrees, and have hired women who have expressed genuine interest in manufacturing. “It was an honor to be highlighted, and really showed me that our company values the awards and the contribution women in the manufacturing industry bring” Jessica said. Since the awards, Jessica has reached out to young women, through an online STEM mentorships program aimed at increasing career awareness/interest in STEM professions. 

All three employees also received a congratulatory note from Gov. Rick Scott. Lisa has also been engaged in the roll out of MHPSA’s ERP system and is considering working more closely with APICS and other organizations to promote STEM. On personal level, the Award has evoked positive comments from friends and family alike, and recently led Lisa to talk at a local Future Farmers of America banquet to showcase how science and technology plays a role even in agricultural careers. 

“It is important for women to be engaged in STEM and industries should take a leading role in providing work-study opportunities that encourage women to pursue careers in this field” said Ivonne.  All three women agree manufacturing offers tremendous career growth opportunities for women, and companies can take a number of steps such as sponsoring women’s manufacturing groups, offering specialized recruitment and outreach programs to attract young women to high-tech careers, help develop programs that connect science-related coursework to real-life operations, or support initiatives aimed at retaining women as part of the STEM workforce.

“Getting women interested in the ever-growing number of STEM jobs is essential to maintaining a competitive national economy” said Jessica. She says it’s important not only from the perspective of filling available jobs, but tapping into it as a resource to inject diversity of thought/ideas to the manufacturing industry and workforce.

As we wrap up this series of STEP awardees from Florida, FLATE will continue its efforts to recognize women in manufacturing across Florida nominated for this prestigious national award. We encourage you to look out among your peers and colleagues, and submit a nomination for next year’s STEP Awards. More information can be found at http://tinyurl.com/aq8nod3, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org/ 813.259.6578.