Women in Manufacturing are Overcoming Preconceived Notions
Shannan Lerch, 32
Quality Manager-1 year with Alpek, (current) & prior to this, I worked in a steel mill laboratory for 5 years
Do you work in an office or manufacturing environment or both and what do you love about your job? Both- I am primarily in the lab but also engage on the production floor when investigating or sampling products. I love two things- the process and the people. When we have a problem, it is extremely gratifying to investigate and find a solution that will help both the company and the workers. When people ask me about my job, it feels great to point to their water bottle and explain that I help to make sure that it includes recycled plastic! I also love helping my team grow and learn new things. Watching people’s faces light up when they learn something new or figure out a problem always makes it a good day.
How have you as an empowered woman empowered other women? To help empower other women, I have found it useful to consciously consider if I am receiving information from both men and women. When women’s voices are not being heard in discussions or women’s contributions are overlooked, I ensure that I bring them back into the conversations and provide recognition. Making sure to celebrate women’s achievements will ensure that they are not overlooked, which is critical for overcoming historical biases. I believe that we all rise together and raising other women up with us will help everyone be successful.
(In manufacturing environment) Do you feel you have the same rights as the men? I do feel that my rights are supported the same as any men also working here. I have been lucky in my experience since many women in the wider workforce have experienced more problems due to gender-related stigmas. This team has always supported equality in the workplace. One of the biggest challenges is that equipment and processes are often set up for a stereotypical male size, making it difficult for some women. For example, the size of steps to reach parts of a process, wider ranges of sizing in PPE, counter heights for shorter individuals. While these setbacks are often outside of the ability of our facility to easily influence, everyone here has always been opened to exploring engineering options to make the facility accessible for a wide range of people.
Do you have a family and how do you juggle if you do? I have an 11-year-old son and my fiancé, and I have been together for 12 years. It can be a struggle to balance family life and work obligations. I am lucky that my fiancé can support my career and personal advancement. We split family responsibilities between us in a manner that makes the most sense to keep everything running. I also focus on spending quality family time together on the weekends and block out work to be present during those times.
What does it feel like to work in a manufacturing environment? When I am working on the floor, I feel accepted and respected by everyone. I have found that showing respect and gratitude towards people leads to them reciprocating. As a woman in manufacturing, overcoming preconceived notions has been easier when demonstrating my abilities both in the lab and more manually on the production floor.
Women at Alpek Polyester Reading Pa 24/84 Female = 25.57%
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