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STEP Ahead Awards Honor Women in Manufacturing

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The Manufacturing Institute’s 10th annual STEP Ahead Awards took place in Washington, D.C., last week, honoring some of the most impressive and inspiring women in the manufacturing industry today. The Awards are part of the STEP Ahead program, which is designed to help advance women’s achievements in the fields of science, technology, engineering and production.

  • The event highlighted the 2022 STEP Ahead Honorees (100 women who are leaders in manufacturing) and the 2022 STEP Ahead Emerging Leaders (30 women under 30 years old who have already had a significant impact on the industry).

The awards ceremony took place on Thursday night, with hundreds of guests in attendance at the National Building Museum and hundreds more viewing the ceremony online. The program featured:

  • 2022 STEP Chair and former 3M Senior Vice President Denise Rutherford;
  • 2022 STEP Vice Chair and Cornerstone Building Brands President and CEO Rose Lee;
  • MI President Carolyn Lee;
  • MI Vice President of Strategic Engagement and Inclusion AJ Jorgenson; and
  • NAM President and CEO and MI Board Chair Jay Timmons.

Sponsors included an all-star roster of manufacturers, including Arconic Foundation, BASF Corporation, Cornerstone Building Brands, PTC, Trane Technologies, ABB, Molson Coors, Novelis, Rockwell Automation, SABIC, Sherwin-Williams and Toyota.

What they said: Carolyn Lee lauded the Honorees and spoke about the importance of closing the skills gap by bringing more women into the manufacturing industry.

  • “My hope is that 10 years down the line, when we meet here for the 20th anniversary of these awards, the young women we will honor won’t have even heard of the glass ceiling, because it’ll be ancient history,” said Lee.
  • “And that will be thanks to the support system, the mentorship and the sterling examples set by the women in this room and the support from our allies.”

Rutherford spoke about leaders’ opportunities to work together to make important progress.

  • “Throughout my career, I’ve learned that being a great leader, as an individual or as a company, means that we don’t go it alone,” said Rutherford. “True change only happens when we work together as trusted allies, advocates and sponsors.”

Rose Lee laid out the qualities that all the Honorees showed and highlighted their shared successes.

  • “The STEP Ahead Awards recognize women in science, technology, engineering and production who exemplify leadership within their companies and within their communities,” said Lee. “Tonight is their night to celebrate their accomplishments.”

Timmons praised the STEP Honorees and called on allies to continue supporting women in the manufacturing industry.

  • “Your achievements, your success and your dedication are showing women what’s possible in manufacturing,” he said. “If you can see it, you know you can be it.”

35×30: Carolyn Lee and Jorgenson spoke about the 35×30 initiative—a program designed to close the skills and talent gap in manufacturing by adding half a million women workers to the industry, increasing women’s representation in manufacturing from 29% today to 35% by 2030.

  • The campaign will train more than 1,000 women mentors, build new tools and resources and work with manufacturing leaders to deploy proven strategies to attract and retain female talent.
  • It will also support young women throughout their education by offering best-in-class leadership development programming and creating a STEP alumnae-funded scholarship.
  • “Tonight, we are done with waiting for other leaders to ‘change things,’ to make society better, more equitable,” said Jorgenson. “We are the leaders. So, tonight, we ask you to join us, to lead.”

New commitments: To help this new initiative along its way, Arconic Foundation President Ryan Kish and Ketchie CEO Courtney Silver stood up during the ceremony to pledge new financial commitments to the program.

The last word: The gala featured a stellar musical performance by award-winning singer–songwriter Rachel Platten, which left not a dry eye in the house. Inspired by the women of STEP, she surprised the audience by singing a new song she’d written for her daughters. It captures what the women leaders of today want to tell the girls who will someday be their heirs:

Girls, you were born to run. To reach the stars and chase the sun.

Girls, you’re wild and free. The wind is at your back, the world is at your feet.

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