Women in Manufacturing forms first community chapter in Milwaukee

The first community chapter of the national organization Women in Manufacturing was recently established in Milwaukee, and it’s in large part because of a group of local women in the industry who were determined to make it happen.

“We have some wonderful ladies there who reached out to me and they were the first ones who wanted to do it,” said Kristin Davis Moore, program manager for the Independence, Ohio-based organization. “Milwaukee’s been kind of our pilot chapter. They just really took it on themselves and I think, therefore, it is successful.”

The Milwaukee group is led by Madeleine Hayes, project manager/analyst in the office of the CEO at Sussex-based metal fabrication company Waukesha Metal Products and chair of the board of the Milwaukee chapter for Women in Manufacturing. She describes the first community chapter as a “guinea pig” for the four other community chapters that have formed since, in Minnesota, Georgia, Oregon and Maryland.

“I don’t know that we’re far enough along to be a model,” Hayes said.

The other organizers and board members are: Amanda Lalley, sales and marketing specialist at Waukesha Metal Products; Mary Scheibel, principal at marketing firm Trefoil Group in Milwaukee; Natalie Glumm, manufacturing sales manager at New Berlin-based plastic components manufacturer Midland Plastics Inc.; and Heather Krugler, corporate communications specialist at Milwaukee-based contract manufacturer Super Steel LLC.

Madeleine Hayes, one of the Milwaukee chapter founders, chats at the inaugural event.

The group made contact with Women in Manufacturing representatives when WiM’s parent group, the Precision Metalforming Association, held its national conference in Milwaukee in 2012.

“Since that meeting, there’s just been kind of a level of enthusiasm and excitement in Milwaukee about women in manufacturing,” Scheibel said, particularly since manufacturing is such an important sector for the state.

Women in Manufacturing’s three pillars are: attract, advance and retain, which the Milwaukee chapter has adopted in its efforts. The group has focused the conversation around women’s opportunities and helping them make an impact in the manufacturing sector, Scheibel said.

“Everybody was really looking at what role can women play in making a positive impact on the industry,” she said. “Together, we can all help each other accomplish more.”

There’s been an outpouring of support for the Milwaukee chapter, and Wisconsin WiM membership has tripled since it was formed, to 38 members that are concentrated in the Milwaukee area, Hayes said.

WiM, a 501(c)(6) nonprofit association, is a fairly new organization itself. It was founded in 2010 and has 470 members nationwide. It is in the process of spinning off from the Precision Metalforming Association to become a separate legal entity. The goal of the community chapters is to increase national WiM membership, Davis Moore said.

“Sometimes networking locally is really important,” she said. “At the end of the day, women really like to meet other women that are in their area.”

WiM Milwaukee held a kickoff meeting in late March at Turner Hall Restaurant in downtown Milwaukee so women could network with their peers and share ideas. And in June, the group held a panel discussion at the Milwaukee Athletic Club. Dawn Tabat, executive vice president of community and external relations and former chief operating officer at Waukesha-based Generac Power Systems; Mary Isbister, president of Mequon-based GenMet; and Doreen Lettau, vice president of market and business development at Nashotah-based Dickten Masch Plastics, spoke on the panel, and Scheibel moderated it.

Both events were well attended, Hayes said. The group plans to host events at least quarterly, and is currently covering costs by charging nominal fees for events. There may be additional social events as well.

Women have come a long way in manufacturing just since the 1990s, Scheibel said. Then, it was a surprise to see even one other woman at a manufacturing event.

“If we would have done this back then, we would have had a table and not a room,” she said. “We’re seeing this whole generation of people that have come up saying, ‘Wow, it’s really exciting to make stuff.’ I think there wasn’t an outlet for it, and I think the women in manufacturing really like being in companies that make things and want to get other women on the bandwagon.”

The chapter plans to address how women can have dynamic, successful careers in manufacturing, with topics including: creative leadership, critical thinking, the difference between being a leader and a manager, becoming a master in the art of negotiation, recognizing thoughtful risk-taking and building a network of people that can help a woman reach her full potential, Scheibel said.

Next on the agenda for local chapter members is a trip to the fourth annual WiM Summit in Schaumburg, Ill. from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1.

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