The Manufacturing Institute announced it will recognize 130 women with the Women in Manufacturing STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Ahead Award at a Washington, D.C., ceremony on April 10.

The Manufacturing Institute launched the STEP Ahead initiative in 2012 to bolster manufacturing’s attractiveness to women and to help improve the perception of careers in the industry among younger generations. The Institute champions diversity and works to empower women leaders. Since 2013, it has annually awarded the STEP Ahead Award to honor women who demonstrate excellence and leadership in their careers and represent all levels of the manufacturing industry, from the factory floor to the C-suite.

This year, the Institute will recognize 100 Honorees and 30 Emerging Leaders, a category that represents women under the age of 30 who have demonstrated leadership early in their careers, with the STEP Ahead Award at a gala in Washington.

STEP Ahead Award winners come from across the U.S. and make a pledge to both promote the opportunities for and importance of women in manufacturing and continue to make an impact in their companies and communities through their role as manufacturers. The STEP Ahead Awards program will highlight each honoree’s story, including her unique achievements in manufacturing. 

“These inspirational women have stepped up as leaders in our industry, building the future of manufacturing and our country," National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO and Manufacturing Institute Chairman Jay Timmons said. "They set a powerful example as we seek to bring more people, especially women, into modern manufacturing. Manufacturers have an urgent need for talented new workers to join us, and we have rewarding, well-paying careers to offer. Women are under-represented in the industry, so there’s an incredible opportunity before us, and STEP Ahead is helping us seize it."

Women constitute one of manufacturing’s largest pools of untapped talent. Women total about 29 percent of the manufacturing workforce, far below their representation in the U.S. labor force as a whole. Research by the institute, Deloitte and APICS Supply Chain Council found that STEP Ahead Honorees and Emerging Leaders are promoted more often, have a clearer vision of their career path and aspirations and are committed to encouraging future generations of women to pursue manufacturing careers. In five years, STEP Ahead Award winners impacted more than 300,000 individuals, engaging in efforts to develop women in their careers and the next generation.

“I am extremely proud of the 130 women being honored this year," Manufacturing Institute Executive Director Carolyn Lee said. "More than ever, we are seeing companies with strong female leadership across the board. In the sixth year of STEP Ahead, we are continuing to add to this esteemed group of women leaders who will remain ambassadors for the industry, learn from each other and pay it forward with the knowledge they’ve gained from this unique experience."

“The women who we are celebrating today represent the exciting career opportunities available in manufacturing,” Arconic Vice President of Human Resources and 2018 STEP Ahead Chair Natalie Schilling said. “The STEP Ahead Award honors successful women in this industry for their significant achievements and the positive impact they have made on their companies, their communities and the industry as a whole.”

“I’m honored to work alongside these distinguished leaders to help advance women in manufacturing, encourage younger generations to be part of this thriving industry and tell the story of modern manufacturing,” Deloitte Vice Chairman and U.S. Consumer & Industrial Products Leader and 2018 STEP Ahead Vice Chair Seema Pajula said.

Learn more about the Institute’s continued leadership on women in manufacturing here.