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Annual STEP Ahead awards recognize women for excellence in manufacturing

Nevada Appeal staff report
Katie Feser
Tyler O’Neill TPOphoto.com | Tyler O’Neill

The Manufacturing Institute has announced it will award Katie Feser with the Women in Manufacturing STEP Ahead award. The STEP Ahead Awards honor women who have demonstrated excellence and leadership in their careers and represent all levels of the manufacturing industry, from the factory floor to the C suite. On April 30, the Manufacturing Institute will recognize 130 recipients of the STEP Ahead Awards at a reception in Washington, D.C.

“Just being nominated by Click Bond was a huge honor,” Feser said. “I realized that it takes a village to make a leader. I attribute this to the continuous support of my abilities and mentorship by our team. It is through the Click Bond environment, which fosters professional development, that I was able to excel and make a difference.

“Reading through names of past recipients, it was inspiring to see the list of talented women in various facets of manufacturing,” she continued. “I am excited to attend the conference and bring back knowledge to impart and grow our team.”

“It has been a pleasure to see Katie’s growth as her career has progressed, from an attentive and professional account manager for our largest customer to learning and leading the manufacturing operations that deliver on the very commitments she previously made,” said Click Bond president Karl Hutter. “Katie is a model of the success that can be achieved when a smart, energetic person with a growth mindset is challenged and enabled.”

“Reading through names of past recipients, it was inspiring to see the list of talented women in various facets of manufacturing. I am excited to attend the conference and bring back knowledge to impart and grow our team.”— Katie Feser

“The 2020 STEP Ahead honorees and emerging leaders represent the exciting opportunities available in manufacturing and help inspire more women to pursue these careers,” said Teressa Szelest, 2020 chair of STEP Ahead and president, Market and Business Development North America, BASF Corp. “There is an evolution of the manufacturing workforce as more women enter into leadership roles, bringing innovative ideas and transforming how we work and increase productivity.

“Women are significantly underrepresented in manufacturing, and the industry is in the midst of a workforce crisis,” said Carolyn Lee, executive director of the Manufacturing Institute. “Closing the gender gap in the industry will go a long way toward closing the skills gap, empowering more women to join manufacturing’s ranks and lifting the industry as a whole. The STEP Ahead Awards provide a platform to honor role models and motivate them to encourage the next generation of women in the manufacturing industry. The women being recognized are industry leaders — and inspirations to the women and girls who will follow their example and pursue careers in manufacturing.”

Launched in 2012, the STEP Women’s Initiative is the nation’s marquee program to close the gender gap in manufacturing. STEP works to foster a 21st century manufacturing workforce by elevating and inspiring women in the manufacturing industry through recognition, research and leadership, as well as by motivating alumni to pay it forward by mentoring the next generation. In the first five years of the initiative, STEP Ahead Award winners have impacted more than 300,000 individuals — from peers in the industry to school-aged children.

The biggest challenge facing manufacturers continues to be the growing workforce crisis. Manufacturers struggling to find enough qualified workers can close the skills gap by 50 percent simply by bringing 10 percent more women into the industry. Women account for about half of the U.S. labor force but represent less than one-third of the manufacturing workforce.

In 2020, as manufacturers step up workforce training efforts, NAM and the Manufacturing Institute launched the Creators Wanted campaign to tackle manufacturing’s perception challenge. The launchpad for these efforts is the Creators Wanted Fund, which has raised more than $10 million so far this year, half of which goes toward a nationwide perception tour and the other half going toward expanding in the Manufacturing Institute’s initiatives.