A male/female imbalance in STEM-related fields isn't new, and according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics study in 2016, women only made up 28.9 percent of all employed in manufacturing jobs—a split that clearly carries a male-heavy influence. Not cool.
We caught up with Kristin Day, Manufacturing Operations Senior Leader at Whirlpool Corporation, to talk more about what she does, what got her interested in pursuing her STEM-related career, and why women have just as much of a space in the industry as men do.
MORE: What does your role as Operations Senior Leader entail?
Day: I'm responsible for delivering the performance metrics, so it relates to safety, quality, delivery, and cost metrics, and I'm responsible for removing any barriers and making sure we have the right resources and talent to get the job done. I'm also responsible for developing future leaders.
MORE: What first got you interested in a career in manufacturing?
Day: I think it was the pace of manufacturing that really appealed to me. There's a lot of variety. There's an opportunity to lead people. And while I was in college at Purdue, I had an internship in the automotive industry one summer, so that's really where my passion started.
MORE: What did you study to get to where you are now?
Day: I think it's a lot broader than people would expect. I don't have a traditional engineering degree. I was in the School Of Technology and received a degree in organizational leadership. It was focused on how you lead people, how you develop successful teams, performance management, project management, and gave a taste into the technology aspect of the business.
MORE: Most STEM-related industries still tend to carry a perception as being male-only fields. How do you work to create a more balanced workplace?
Day: We have women in nearly every function and every organization within manufacturing, and those that are in those roles love being in manufacturing. So I think it's really about how you get talent at the recruiting stage to actually take [the first] step and take a chance in manufacturing.
MORE: Are there any negative perceptions about the manufacturing industry that you would hope to break?
Day: Manufacturing [...] is an extremely fun environment to work in. Throughout my career, I've had the opportunity to work in many different functions, whether it's materials, quality, safety and health, or assembly. You really start to develop a true understanding of what it means to manufacture American-made products, and it's fun. It's fun leading groups of people. There's a lot of variety, and I just think there's a huge opportunity.
MORE: What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in manufacturing or STEM in general?
Day: It really depends on where you are, how young you are, and where you're at in your career. If I'm speaking to the younger generation of females, I would [advise] taking a leadership role. Wherever it is, whatever it is, be in a leadership role. Whether it's in class, in the community, or on a team. Because I think having some of those responsibilities as a leader creates a foundation to have a successful career long term.
From a STEM standpoint, do what you can to get involved in STEM-related activities. Be part of a robotics team. Even in art class, they're doing 3D art printing, and I think that's pretty cool. Find your passion! Is it designing things, fixing things, solving problems, or leading teams of people? All of those skills are extremely transferable to the manufacturing environment.