The energy and enthusiasm of the night were fittingly high for the occasion: a gala to honor 130 standout women in manufacturing.
What went on: The Manufacturing Institute’s 2023 Women MAKE Awards—formerly the STEP Ahead Awards—took place Thursday evening at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., following the two-day Women MAKE Leadership Conference. (The MI is the NAM’s 501(c)3 workforce development and education affiliate.)
- The gala—which featured a live performance by violinist Ezinma and was sponsored this year by BASF, Trane Technologies, Amazon and others—is held each year to honor women in manufacturing who exemplify leadership in their careers.
- This year the awards recognized 100 honorees and 30 “emerging leaders,” women under the age of 30 who have achieved unique accomplishments.
What was said: MI President and Executive Director Carolyn Lee delivered the night’s opening remarks, telling audience members she was humbled to be in their midst.
- “We have women who have launched entire product lines,” she said. “Women with dozens of patents to their name. Women who oversee the production and distribution of millions of products every day … women who constantly exceed expectations.”
- Carolyn Lee touched on the MI’s year-old 35×30 campaign, which aims to raise the percentage of women in manufacturing from 29% to 35% by 2030, and said the women honored at the gala serve as inspiration to young women considering manufacturing careers. “Because if you can see it, you can be it,” she said.
“The opportunity”: WMA Chair and Cornerstone Building Brands President and CEO Rose Lee underscored the importance of filling the current shortfall of manufacturing workers.
- If the shortage continues unchecked, the number of missing workers could exceed 2 million by 2030, she said, citing a study by the MI and Deloitte.
- “Therein lies the opportunity to engage an untapped, underutilized pool of women talent in the vitally important manufacturing sector,” Rose Lee continued. “This is the collective work we need to pursue, and the honorees and emerging leaders here tonight are advancing this work by demonstrating the myriad ways in which women can achieve professional success in the manufacturing industry.”
Thank you: MI Board Chair and NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons thanked the honorees for showing the next generation what’s possible.
- “Thank you for being role models—including for my daughters and my son, the many families we have in this room and the people you impact every day,” Timmons said. “The ripple effect you can have is incalculable.”
From one to many: Rounding out the night’s lineup was event Vice Chair and Caterpillar Inc. Group President of Resource Industries Denise Johnson, who told the audience it was “remarkable” to be in a room with so many other women in manufacturing.
- “There have been many times throughout my career when I’ve been the only woman in a room, the only woman on a project,” she said. “What an incredible change of pace this is. I … am overwhelmed with gratitude and pride for how far we’ve come. Congratulations to all of you.”