West Columbia, S.C. — In celebration of Women’s History Month, on March 24, 2021, Creators Wanted brought a message of opportunity and empowerment to South Carolina for the third event of the campaign’s virtual event series: “Creators Stories: Women Make Manufacturing.” Hosted by Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation, which makes, among other products, a significant portion of the nebulizer medicines used in the treatment of COVID-19 in the United States, leading women in manufacturing took center stage to share their insights about manufacturing careers.
The numbers: Manufacturers in the United States have 515,000 open jobs, according to Carolyn Lee, Executive Director of The Manufacturing Institute. In 2020, South Carolina had 21,818 open manufacturing jobs. While 47% of the U.S. labor force is made up of women, only about 29% of the manufacturing workforce is female, Lee reported during the virtual program broadcasted nationwide.” “Women represent [the] largest pool of untapped talent,” said Lee.
How Nephron Pharmaceuticals fits in? The company is a best-in-class example of a diverse workforce. “We’re 53% female in this workforce,” said Lou Kennedy, president, CEO and owner of Nephron Pharmaceuticals, with 42 countries represented among its employees.
Spotlight on Kennedy: Among manufacturing executives, Kennedy has emerged as a leading voice and champion on building the future manufacturing workforce, but her path into manufacturing was anything but certain. While she’d been “fascinated by the manufacturing process … [her] whole life” (her father was in manufacturing of plastic and fiber), Kennedy went to school for journalism. It took an introduction to the manufacturing of respiratory medications, which her child was taking, to set her on a course to leading Nephron Pharmaceuticals. So in 2007, without a chemistry or engineering background, Kennedy jumped in, helping to propel unprecedented growth at the company. Her advice to other women: “Be bold and don’t be afraid to fail.” And, for those younger in their career journeys, Kennedy suggested a blended course of study, not “just stick[ing] to one core set of topics or subjects.”
Why manufacturing? Two dynamic manufacturers, who’ve risen up the ranks in manufacturing enterprises, added their perspectives to the program on the draw of a modern manufacturing career.
- Lindsay Leonard, Senior Director, National Strategy & Engagement, Government Operations, Boeing: “[Y]ou’re part of building the product. In our case, it’s airplanes. You’re part of building an ecosystem. You’re part of building people’s futures and manufacturing facilities are generational career choices that they’re around for much longer than my individual career. Pretty much everything I get to do, I see a tangible result. And that’s a pretty cool place to find yourself in your career …. [In] manufacturing the world is your oyster. It’s endless possibility and opportunity.”
- Katarina Fjording, Head of Volvo Car University & Sustainability Americas, Volvo Car USA: “[I]t’s safe, it’s well paid, and creating is very rewarding. And also [the] manufacturing industry is very broad. The career possibilities are endless both for generalists and specialists. And it’s also very interesting and it’s fun. If for whatever reason you would choose to want to go somewhere else, having a background in industry and manufacturing is highly coveted from other areas of business.”
Moms in manufacturing: AJ Jorgenson, MI Vice President of Strategic Program Engagement joined Meena Banasiak, Vice President of Quality and Corporate Social Responsibility at Phoenix Closures and Brooke Wynn, Senior Director of Sustainability at Smithfield Foods, Inc., to provide the insights of moms in manufacturing.
What next? “STEP, it’s our STEP Women’s Initiative and that stands for science, technology, engineering, and production,” said Lee. “And our STEP Women’s Initiative is going into our ninth year and it’s really the nation’s marquee program for women in manufacturing, and it’s dedicated to fostering a 21st century modern manufacturing workforce that gives women the recognition and the support they deserve.” Click here to learn more.