Why Female Mentorship Matters in Manufacturing

A great mentor can make all the difference to your career—especially if you’re in an industry where you may find yourself in the minority. To help women in manufacturing reach their full potential in a male-dominated industry, the Manufacturing Institute’s Women MAKE America program has created a mentorship program, generously supported by its 35×30 Campaign supporters, Dow, General Motors, Arconic Foundation, Alcoa Foundation and Ketchie.

  • The program has an ambitious goal: to train more than 1,000 female mentors by 2030 and connect them with younger women in the industry as well as students in colleges, high schools and middle schools.

One year into the program, the participants are already seeing an impact. In a recent Women MAKE webinar, attendees got to hear from one successful and happy mentee, while also receiving guidance on building their own slate of mentors.

Making a difference: “I was especially thankful for the Women MAKE Mentorship Program because it filled a gap in my support system and allowed me to have a mentor who was really dedicated to my professional development,” said Zen Saunders, a 2022 Women MAKE mentee and diversity, equity, inclusion and employee experience leader at Dow.

  • Saunders explained that her mentor shared examples of how she built her career, which inspired Saunders to map out her own next steps more creatively. Through regular meetings with her mentor, Saunders learned to find common interests with colleagues and earn their buy-in on new projects.
  • “[My mentor has] been an active listener and committed to my success, creating a safe space for me to learn from the challenges that I’ve faced while offering a refreshing perspective that’s uplifting and encouraging,” said Saunders.

Support from Women MAKE: After hearing from Saunders, participants in the webinar were asked to design a personal “board of directors” to mentor them in their own careers. Women MAKE hosts many such activities, which are designed to forge connections between participants and encourage them to think ambitiously about their career paths.

  • The board members could be people from participants’ personal or professional lives, instructed MI Director of Women’s Engagement Sarah Shields. An ideal board of directors should include a sponsor, an innovator, an expert, a truth teller and a safe space.
  • After they brainstormed a list of people who could fit these roles, Shields encouraged participants to ask these people to act as mentors and to schedule regular times to discuss their career plans.

The last word: “I’m thankful to the Manufacturing Institute for this opportunity and the amazing Women MAKE Mentorship Program. It’s really been a life-changing and transformative experience for me. I highly recommend this program for women and girls currently in or interested in the industry,” Saunders said.

Get involved: In addition to young and senior manufacturing professionals, this year Women MAKE is inviting young women and girls ages 13+ who are interested in STEM, as well as refugees seeking opportunities in the U.S., to join the Women MAKE Mentorship Program.

  • If you are interested in joining the Women MAKE Mentorship Program as a mentor, or know of someone who would benefit from becoming a mentee, check out the application. The deadline for applying is Tuesday, Feb. 28.
  • You can also tune in to the next Women Connect webinar on “Building Your Personal Brand” on Thursday, Feb. 16.
  • And last, if you have questions, please contact the Women MAKE team at [email protected].
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