When most people think of the manufacturing industry, they think of it as a male dominated field. And in many ways it is – women only make up a third of the workers in the industry. However, women make up about half of the sales and office jobs in manufacturing.
Through working at Visibility, an ERP technology company that serves the manufacturing industry, I have gotten to meet many strong and successful women in manufacturing. Seeing these women break glass ceilings made me wonder – where did women get their start in manufacturing? In this blog we will take a look at the great women in manufacturing history.
Here are four of the many important women in manufacturing history that we have to thank for launching women into this field:
Margaret Knight. Nicknamed “the lady Edison”, Margaret Knight began her manufacturing career working in a textile mill in New Hampshire. After seeing another worker get injured by the equipment, she invented a safety device for textile looms. Her first patent came in 1871 when she invented the machine that cut, folded, and glued paper shopping bags. In her lifetime she received 27 patents, leaving her mark on the manufacturing industry.
Madame CJ Walker. In 1908, Madame CJ Walker created started her own company manufacturing specialized hair products for African American women. The Madame CJ Walker Manufacturing Company employed thousands of women. In addition to on the job training in sales and grooming, Madame CJ Walker taught many women how to budget, build their business, and become financially independent.
Rosie the Riveter. Perhaps the most recognizable cultural icon of female empowerment (starting in the World War II era and continuing to present day), Rosie the Riveter represented the women who worked in manufacturing factories during World War II. The Rosie the Riverter imagery was used to recruit women to fill the manufacturing jobs left by men who were fighting in the war. Rosie the Riveter forever opened the workforce to women.
Stephanie Kwolek. Stephanie Kwolek was one of the first female chemists at the chemical company DuPont. In her lifetime she was awarded 17 patents. Kevlar was the most impactful of her inventions. Kevlar is most famously used to make bullet proof vests, but has many uses and has changed the way we manufacture clothing, building materials, airplanes, and more.
We have these four bold,brave, and brilliant women to thank for paving the way in the manufacturing industry. With the reemergence of manufacturing in America and more and more young girls being educated in STEM, I believe the future of women in manufacturing is bright. Stay tuned for future blog posts on women in manufacturing.
To learn more about how Visibility serves the manufacturing industry, click here.