Manufacturing Isn’t Just for Guys: 3 Women Who Are Changing the Face of Manufacturing


Guest Post by Alexander Cohen, EVERFI

When it comes to manufacturing, there’s a disconnect: women comprise nearly half of today’s working population but less than a third of the manufacturing workforce. To power the future of modern manufacturing, we need all hands on deck. And that means motivating girls to take an early interest in engineering.

Today we’re highlighting three women who are changing the face of manufacturing—and inspiring girls to follow in their footsteps.

1. Alicia Boler Davis – General Motors Co. (GM)

Growing up in the Detroit suburbs—the heart of U.S. car manufacturing—Alicia Boler Davis credits a middle school teacher with identifying her STEM aptitude. That teacher advised her to become an engineer, and the lesson stuck—an anecdote that aligns with studies showing that students develop strong affinities for certain careers before they even reach high school.

Today, Boler Davis is Executive Vice President of Global Manufacturing at GM, leading 180,000 employees across 171 facilities in 31 countries. The highest ranking black woman in the auto industry, she recently accepted the 2018 Black Engineer of the Year award, bestowed by a team of leading scientists from government, academia, and industry.

• First black woman manager of a GM vehicle manufacturing plant.
• Improved vehicle quality and fundamentally redefined customer care and interaction.
• Strategically linked customer experience and product quality.
• Winner of Automotive News’ 2017 All Star in Manufacturing award.
• Leads workshops for GM’s partnership with Girls Who Code, inspiring thousands of girls to become future leaders in technology and engineering.

2. Darlene Stokes – GE Healthcare

While working at a local supermarket in high school, Darlene Stokes was told that she should not pursue a career in science, “because you’re a girl.” For Stokes, those words became motivation—not only to attain a degree in chemical engineering, but also to become one of the top women engineers at GE.

Stokes’ career started as a production engineer on the factory floor at GE Plastics, where she quickly progressed to plant manager, learning to solve problems and make business processes better. “You cannot appreciate something if you’ve never been hands-on with it,” she says.

From there, Stokes switched to the other side of the business, leading the Sales and Operations Planning process for more than $2 billion in sales. Today, she oversees the entire wing-to-wing supply-chain strategy for the women’s health, interventional, and x-ray divisions at GE Healthcare.

For Stokes, engineering is about more than science. “An engineering education teaches you to solve problems,” she says. “It’s a transferable skill that you can use in every aspect of your life.”

• Global Supply Chain Value Stream Manager for GE Healthcare.
• Earned Black Belt and Master Black Belt certifications for plant improvements and global initiatives.
• Innovator in on-time delivery, inventory, cost and product quality.
• Three-year co-leader for GE Girls at Milwaukee School Of Engineering, a weeklong camp for 7th and 8th grade girls inspiring them to learn about STEM-related careers and the GE Girls National Program co-lead for the last year.

3. Liz O’Neill – Levi Strauss & Co.

Liz O’Neill has always been a rule breaker. As a teenager, her mother wouldn’t let her wear blue jeans to school, so she smuggled a pair of Levi’s in her backpack. Fast forward about 25 years, and O’Neill is now Senior Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer at Levi Strauss & Co., the iconic fashion manufacturer that invented the blue jean.

The fabric manufacturing industry has a reputation both for heavy water usage and for undesirable factory working conditions—but O’Neill wasn’t happy with the status quo. Over several years, she’s worked hard to make Levi’s entire supply cycle more environmentally friendly and more healthy for garment workers in factories around the world. Her secret? Setting standards for vendors and empowering them in sustainability and worker well-being.

Today she says, “if you’re going to be a key Levi’s supplier, you have to be leading on sustainability.”

• Forged key partnerships between environmental sustainability and sourcing.
• Built global partnerships to improve supply chain agility.
• Oversees industry-leading manufacturing guidelines that require business partners to support sustainability and worker rights.
• In charge of Levi’s “Worker Well-Being” program, mandating that by 2020, 80 percent of products will be made by suppliers using this program.
• Helping Levi move toward a closed-loop environment with water usage in manufacturing.

Inspiring The Next Generation of Engineers

With science and engineering jobs expected to grow at double the rate of jobs in other industries, our nation can’t afford to leave anyone out. EVERFI is proud to be on the forefront of this movement, building an engineering-literate generation through interactive education that targets students when they are forming ideas about careers.

Choose your Reaction!
  • thanks for sharing stories of current female role models for girls. My 8 year old loved hearing about these three leaders!

    • So glad you enjoyed it Iftkhar! Thanks so much for leaving your feedback 🙂

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