Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Features In-Depth Opinion Women in Manufacturing
Do you have a 3D organization?

Ensuring we have diverse voices at the table and on the shop floor gives an extra dimension to our operations.


Photo: Morsa Images/Getty Images

I’m a member of a very small-not-for-profit. Our AGM is coming up soon, and I was reviewing documents in preparation for our meeting. It struck me that for quite some time now, our board has been entirely comprised of men.

I emailed our chair to recommend that we specifically call for nominations of women to our board at the AGM – because whether it’s for small or large organizations, we have to work extra hard to ensure we have diverse representation in our workplaces and on our boards. Why does it matter to me? Because large or small, I want the organizations I’m involved with to be the best, to be multi-dimensional and to make a difference. And that requires diversity.

How often do we take the time to consider the diversity of the spaces and organizations around us? The speaker lineup for a conference. The composition of a board. The management team in your boardroom and the skilled trades on your shop floor. Everywhere, in every space, it is worth our time and effort to advocate and support diversity and inclusion. But why?

Ensuring we have diverse voices at the table and on the shop floor gives an extra dimension to our operations. Picture your neighbour’s front lawn – a glowing, green carpet of turf. A featureless, flat monoculture is what I see in my mind.

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But add in other plants – even dandelions – and you’ve now got a vibrant, three-dimensional landscape literally buzzing with activity. Wouldn’t we want our organizations and businesses to be equally vibrant, successful and busting out of the 2D trap?

It’s tough to recognize you’re even in a 2D trap, and tougher to break out of it. However, you can. First, decide that you will intentionally support diversity and inclusion in all aspects of your life. You both make choices and influence choices, and your deliberate decision to support your intentions will start the conversation around diversity. Ultimately, it will improve the vibrancy and success of your business or your organization through adding that vital third dimension.

Next, be aware of and actively use available support programs to diversify. It’s not always only up to us to put our fist through that glass ceiling; we have to support others as they realize their ambitions for themselves and their companies.

In the Windsor-Essex region in Ontario, we’ve got two terrific “made in Windsor-Essex” support programs – Build a Dream and the Women’s Enterprise Skills Training (WEST) of Windsor’s “Women in Skilled Trades” program. Both programs target women, encouraging them to choose careers in fields that have traditionally been the bastions of men. Build a Dream has taken its successful programs nationally, influencing thousands of young women by showing them role models in a wide range of career paths.

And finally, celebrate and support. “She can’t be it if she can’t see it” is one of the mantras that guide my focus on diversity. Celebrating the achievement of women isn’t something we do once a year – we have to shine a spotlight on their accomplishments continually. We must have mentors and role models throughout organizations to support and encourage women to follow the path less travelled. And we must be intentional in supporting the transformation of our organizations and our companies into vibrant, 3D successes.

Congratulations on the Women in Manufacturing event! It celebrates the accomplishments of a great number of female role models and will allow them to mentor our emerging generation of female leaders.


Shelley Fellows is chair of Automate Canada, a national association for industrial automation and technology companies, a co-founder of Radix Inc. and a recipient of the 2016 Athena Award. She has a front lawn with lots of dandelions.