A Candid Q&A With Two Award-Winning Women in Manufacturing

Written by
Catherine Bennett

The past decade has seen an increasing number of women entering the manufacturing workforce. While this is hopeful news, women still only make up about a third of employees in the industry. We've also seen more women filling manufacturing leadership positions. Additionally, more male allies are stepping up to make that happen. While we love to see this progress, still only 1 in 4 manufacturing leadership roles are occupied by women.

When you look at the U.S. Department of Commerce's statistics, it's clear these numbers are lower than national averages considering women compose 47% of the national workforce. As a professional in the manufacturing world, these low numbers are no surprise. Generally speaking, fewer women take jobs in construction, STEM fields, mining and oil, and manufacturing. However, the women who are rewriting the script are making a big impact in their respective roles.

At the tail end of Women’s History Month, we asked two highly successful women about their experience working in the industry, what unique talents they bring to their teams, and how we can get more women in manufacturing.

Meet the Manufacturing Leaders

Allyse Jackson is the founder and CEO of Beehive Meals. Beehive Meals has made a name for itself in the local meal prep and delivery scene, with a string of recent awards to show for it. Since its beginning in 2019, the company has grown from serving local neighborhoods to families across Utah, Idaho, and Arizona. This is truly amazing considering Allyse started the company hoping to make some extra money for her family by selling to families in the community. Recently, Allyse was named CEO of the Year by Utah Business for her vision in growing a multi-million dollar company.

Mofan Sanderson is the quality control manager of Lakanto Monk Fruit Sweeteners—a wildly successful natural foods company. In 2023, Mofan’s leadership skills won her the Women in Manufacturing award from the Utah Manufacturers Association. Mofan is proud to represent women in the industry.

We Asked, They Answered

To understand the challenges and rewards women experience in manufacturing, we interviewed Allyse Jackson, CEO of Beehive Meals, and Mofan Sanderson, Quality Control Manager at Lakanto, to understand their experiences in a male dominated industry and see what we can learn from it.

Can you share some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a woman in the manufacturing industry?

Allyse: I don’t think it’s intentional, maybe more of an ingrained bias, but I don’t feel that respect comes to women as quickly as it does for men in the workplace. When networking, I can’t count the amount of times the person will look at my husband (or other male colleagues) instead of me, even though I’m directly involved in the conversation. It often takes more time and effort to feel the same respect that’s easily given to my male counterparts in the industry.

What are some of the advantages you’ve brought to your role as a woman in manufacturing?

Allyse: There is strength in diversity. While I’m also a strong believer in meritocracy, I believe women bring unique backgrounds and experiences that allow their strengths to shine. For instance, in my particular expertise, the food industry has historically been dominated by rich old men. With the industry shifting to convenient home delivery options, who would know the needs of the customer better than women, the ones most often in charge of dinner? In food production and manufacturing, we have found that women tend to have a better foundation to build on as we introduce them to our style of manufacturing.

Mofan: I’ve built a team of all women. Something I bring to the table is making sure my peers feel recognized and know they are valued. For example, I express emotions of appreciation in anniversary cards, birthday cards, and company award nominations. 

In your experience, what are some things the manufacturing industry can do to attract and retain more women?

Allyse: Segments of the manufacturing industry have a really poorly preconceived perception; it’s dirty, it’s hard work, it’s male dominated, etc. We hold these perceptions despite the fact that there are really great opportunities for women all around. To change these perceptions, the industry needs to do a better job presenting the benefits to women and showing them how they can be successful.

Mofan: Other women in leadership with equal pay. Women in leadership will set an example of what a woman can become outside of the “blue collar” stereotype and show a career path. Having women in management will create advocates for women’s rights in this male-dominated industry. 

How can companies create a more inclusive culture for women in manufacturing?

Allyse: One of the best ways is by being understanding of the challenges women face at both work and home. While fathers and mothers both work, the responsibility of the primary caregiver for the children often falls upon the mother. Positive improvements for inclusion can be made by simply allowing for flexibility in child support. Be supportive as they need to come and go based on their family’s needs, and make it clear that it’s not frowned upon to do so. For us, we found an untapped pool of talent by focusing our efforts on stay-at-home mothers often overlooked due to their life situation.

Mofan: Recognize women in manufacturing. Often, companies focus greatly on sales and other “business” functions while regarding workers on the manufacturing floor as just “factory workers.” There is little regard for where the product came from as long as it is selling well. 

What advice would you give to young women considering a career in manufacturing?

Allyse: In all things, find something you love. In most manufacturing careers, you’re able to see the fruits of your work fairly quickly which can be extremely fulfilling! You can find a sense of accomplishment in the creation of something that was literally built from scratch.

Mofan: My advice to women considering a career in manufacturing is to study the field thoroughly and understand there is much more than just the “manufacturing” stereotype. Learn about the different companies that use different types of manufacturing. In my opinion, mentorship and growth is more important than a salary for entry-level positions. 

How has your experience in manufacturing shaped you as a leader?

Allyse: Through manufacturing, I have been able to find my calling in life, which has allowed me to have a positive impact on so many people around me. As a founder of a small start-up, I was forced to grow quickly as a leader as we went from zero employees to over a hundred in less than 4 years. It was a new experience to have so many people look to me for answers that directly impacted their own careers. Though it’s been a rollercoaster ride of self-growth, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

Mofan: Valuing the product for more than just what sits on the shelf. When I see a bag of Lakanto at the store, I see all the team members who pulled long shifts to make sure the lot was produced and shipped on time. 

Takeaways 

What manufacturing has to offer is incredibly diverse and women bring unique strengths to every role. They are essential in helping companies grow, adapt, and understand their customers. 

Allyse's and Mofan's insights have us asking, what will it take for industry leaders to continue attracting talented women and keep the number of women in manufacturing on the rise?

Suggested Posts

A Candid Q&A With Two Award-Winning Women in Manufacturing

The First Essential Step to Business Excellence: Strategy

How the 2024 Utah Legislation Will Affect Manufacturers