Jennifer Boland-Masterson originally got excited about manufacturing because of the robots. The Indiana native later graduated from Purdue University with a degree in electrical engineering, then worked in the automotive and boat industries before joining Boeing. Today, she is Boeing’s director of operations, Space Launch System, and leads the team that is building NASA’s SLS rocket—the most powerful rocket in development today.
“The plan is to get us back to the moon, and then to Mars, and this rocket has the payload to make it happen,” says Boland-Masterson. “We’re building the next generation of the space program, and that’s my day-to-day.”
A manufacturing advocate: Boland-Masterson was recently selected by The Manufacturing Institute as a 2021 STEP Ahead Award Honoree—an honor given to women leaders who have excelled both within their companies and in the industry as a whole. She sees sharing stories as an important way of encouraging other young women to go into manufacturing and frequently attends science, technology, engineering and math events in her community to demystify the industry for young people and their parents.
- “The earlier that girls and their parents understand that STEM events are not just for boys, and [the earlier] they see role models in the fields they aspire to be in, the better,” says Boland-Masterson. “It gives them that energy. They realize, hey, I can do that too.”
- “It might look male-dominated, but the dynamics are changing,” she adds. “You’re seeing more diversity in these engineering, tech, science areas. It’s exciting to see that change.”
It takes a village—and some confidence: Boland-Masterson emphasizes the importance of teamwork and of being able to build a community among your friends and colleagues.
- “Make sure you have a good support system,” she advises young people. “We can’t do it by ourselves. We have to have people we can ask for advice or help. Whether you’re a woman or a man, everyone needs that support system.”
- “We all will have challenges, but that’s okay,” she adds. “You’re your number one fan, and when you believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything and everything you want.”
An unexpected journey: Even as someone who hoped to go into manufacturing from an early age, Boland-Masterson was surprised by the range of opportunities she encountered in the industry. Her work has turned out to be both international and interplanetary.
- “I would never have imagined as a kid that I would be building a rocket that will carry astronauts into deep space,” says Boland-Masterson. “I would never have guessed. Growing up in Indiana, I thought I would stay in Indiana my whole life. But getting into manufacturing, I’ve had an opportunity to go across the country and around the world.”
And does she work with robots?: “Believe it or not, I don’t work with any robots,” Boland-Masterson says, laughing. “My day-to-day is all about human interaction. But I say keep an open mind and that will take you to wonderful, unexpected places.”
Manufacturing businesses have long been proponents of equality in the workplace. As legislation to codify protections for LGBT individuals passes through the House of Representatives, the National Association of Manufacturers joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, and other members of the business community in advocating its passage, forging coalitions and providing congressional testimony.
Introduced with bipartisan support in the U.S. House and Senate in March, the Equality Act includes federal protections for individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity under the existing framework of the Civil Rights Act, which already provides protection against discrimination on the basis of religion, national origin, race, color or sex. The goal of the legislation is to ensure that no person can face legal discrimination based on their gender or sexual orientation, setting a clear federal standard to enable individuals to succeed based on their abilities and qualifications to perform a job.
“Employers understand the importance of creating an environment in which the very best people can succeed based on merit,” Patrick Hedren, NAM vice president, labor, legal and regulatory policy, said. “At the same time, manufacturers know that discrimination in any form is antithetical to the values that we work to uphold every day: equality of opportunity, individual liberty, free enterprise and competitiveness.”
In March, more than 40 other industry associations rallied to support the Equality Act, providing an important boost for the groundbreaking legislation. In the weeks since, manufacturing representatives have testified before the House Education and Labor Committee and signed a coalition letter to the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services calling for the Act’s passage. As Congress considers the way forward, manufacturers have made clear that they intend to advocate forcefully on behalf of the legislation and uphold their commitment to workers of every gender identity and sexual orientation.
“The Equality Act creates a clear federal standard that matches the sentiments manufacturers already share: gender identity and sexual orientation have no impact on an employee’s abilities and discrimination is not welcome on the manufacturing floor,” Hedren said. “We look forward to working with Congress as this important legislation moves ahead.”
Washington, D.C. – National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President and CEO Jay Timmons released the following statement after the Department of Labor (DOL) rescinded the 2016 Persuader Rule:
Manufacturers have fought for this victory for many years in the courts, in Congress and with two administrations, using the full weight of our policy, government relations and legal teams, said Timmons. The NAM’s Manufacturers’ Center for Legal Action was able to halt the rule in court in 2016.And in 2017, the Trump administration, as part of its broader regulatory relief agenda, thankfully began the process of unwinding the rule. This overreaching rule threatened to impose serious burdens on manufacturers and upend employee–employer communications. Now manufacturers are relieved that this threat to workplace communications is finally and officially off the books. Commonsense steps like this to rein in onerous regulations are a major reason why manufacturers are reporting record-high business optimism.
The Manufacturers’ Center for Legal Action (MCLA) is the leading voice of manufacturers in the courts and engages in a range of activities, including direct party litigation and operating a robust amicus program, as well as educating manufacturers about emerging legal trends. The MCLA is led by NAM Senior Vice President and General Counsel Linda Kelly and NAM Vice President of Litigation and Deputy General Counsel Peter Tolsdorf. More information on the MCLA can be found here.
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs more than 12 million men and women, contributes $2.25 trillion to the U.S. economy annually, has the largest economic impact of any major sector and accounts for more than three-quarters of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the Manufacturers or to follow us on Shopfloor, Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.