On 5th March, FUNDIGEX had the honour to be invited by the WFO to a very interesting Webinar where we had the chance to discuss several important issues within the foundry industry with three other women of this fascinating industry.
We encourage you to read the full article edited by the WFO and available at the end of the text.
You can also access the video of the Webinar below.
PERSPECTIVES ON THE INDUSTRIAL SITUATION AND CHALLENGES FOR METALCASTING
Part of the future of the foundry sector relies on its ability to encourage new professionals to join it, along with its capacity to enhance the technical and leadership skills of young people within its companies and organizations. In addition, a special focus can be set on women, who still represent a low percentage of the total labor force, even lower than the figures in Manufacturing as a whole. In a context where the pandemic crisis is accelerating some of the challenges for this sector, a true global cooperation to promote its image as an advanced and technological industry seems to be key for these actions. Talking with some top global female leaders allow us to shape the way our industry is being challenged and highlight some of the solutions that the international industry is developing to face the actual complexity.
Encouraging new talent and enhancing leadership skills of young women in Foundry
We have seen in the last decades an increase in the number of women leading foundry technical organizations or presiding their Boards, along with the ones directly involved in management of foundry companies. The adoption of tools like mentoring or the spread of new platforms to create effective networks among them seem also to be part of the change mechanism in some metalcasting producing countries. Despite this, women continue to be a low percentage of the global workforce in manufacturing industries, which is making companies reflect on how they can attract this segment as well as help the young foundry women to enhance their leadership skills and to advance in their careers in our industry.
Awarded with the 2019 Step Ahead Award (Manufacturing Institute) and the 2020 Cast Iron Division Individual Service Award (AFS), Lizeth Medina (USA) is also the Senior Manager – Quality Assurance and Technical Services in Neenah Foundry and part of the Board of Directors of the Ductile Iron Society, so showing a new leadership is making its way into the foundry industry. On several occasions, she has mentioned the importance of mentoring and the existence of advocates for women in manufacturing. “In the United States there is a 30% of women in Manufacturing and there is a 20% in Foundry. We are closing that gap, but this is not going in an exponential base,” highlights Medina.
In a context where women are still a small percentage of manufacturing workforce, where role models and mentoring seem such important ways to promote a career, the industry as a whole may be missing some tools or actions to strengthen the role of women in the foundry business. Medina has been working close to some proposals with the aim to reduce that gap, like the creation of Employee Resource Groups, former groups that are led by the HR department and that focus on minorities and diversity. As she explains it: “In order for this to have an impact, for having a big impact, it needs to be part of the company’s culture. That’s what other manufacturing sectors are starting to do.”
The expert points out a reason behind the 10% lower percentage of women in labor force in comparison with other manufacturing industries: “We have so much competition, with Aerospace, Chemical industry… there are a lot more “sexier” industries and that perception is probably not allowing us to bring more people, not only female but younger talent to this industry.”
Mentoring has been a useful tool for Medina in her own adaptation for the metalcasting industry: “For me, finding a mentor was a little bit difficult until I understood that I needed advice, to listen… The idea is great, and it was when I learnt that I needed this that I realized about its importance,” explains the expert.
Lynn Postle (UK), the Publisher of Foundry Trade Journal, a world’s leading English language publication for the global foundry industry, highlights the importance of connecting mentoring with the younger people accessing this sector: “This is something that our industry needs to develop more so we can bring new people in and plug the skills gap that we know we have.” The Editor also remarks that it is also good to see that our professionals use this mentoring tool as a way to give something back to the industry.
Around the question of how to encourage young women to enter the industry and looking into the examples present in Europe, we find that Foundries in Sweden have a good number of role models, with women developing their careers as general managers or production managers, among others. The new General Secretary of a well-known and established metalcasting organization like the Swedish Foundry Association, Diana Bogic, explains one of the problems to encourage new careers even with this positive situation: “We are failing on communicating internally and externally that these women exist and what they actually are doing in the industry.”
The Swedish Foundry Association tries to be a driving force for this improvement in communicating the actual role models from women in our industry. “In our Foundry Days we try to have equal representation on the stage, having female moderators, or 2 out of 3 female keynote speakers. By showing this representation of women on stage, we are sending the right message to the attendees, but also that we as an industry acknowledge their skills and competence,” Bogic affirms. A really good step forward, in the words of Postle: “For people that want to enter the industry, they need that the industry reflects how they look.”
We have to change our way of thinking about women as leaders, as Bogic points out: “In the end we have to encourage women to go into leadership positions and also give women the opportunity to take on those roles.” Postle concurs with this idea: “This is about encouraging people into the sector, but it is also about having more women in senior positions and at Board level.”
As the Managing Director at Fundigex, the Castings & Foundry Suppliers Association in Spain, Marina Giacopinelli is directly involved in promoting the sector in the international market, and she has a first-hand vision on possible differences in how this situation is affecting different countries. “Within the Foundry industry, the Marketing departments are more representative for women than other departments. I honestly haven’t seen very much difference in international trade fairs between countries: in general, the foundry industry is still a men’s industry, as for example we can see in those fairs where only 25% of people travelling are women,”, explains the manager.
There is a certain change, there are improvements, but there is still a lot of work to do. From the point of view of the long-term international experience of Postle: “There are certainly more opportunities in the industry and Engineering in general for women.” “This industry might not be as attractive as other industries at a first glance. On the other hand, when people enter it, they just remain,” highlights positively Bogic. As Postle enthuses: “It just gets under your skin.”
Full article accessible here WFO Attracting and retaining top talent in the foundry industry – Full Article
For access to Webinar, click here