The American manufacturing industry has long been dominated by males. Recent studies show more women are joining the workforce, but they still only make up about 30% of the 15.8 million people working in manufacturing. Fewer still hold leadership positions – only 1 in 4.
Public perception of manufacturing is beginning to shift in the positive direction. Manufacturing is not the dirty, dangerous, low-tech profession it used to be. Astec offers a safe, clean working environment and uses state-of-the-art technology to build equipment for asphalt road building, aggregate processing and concrete production. The company is also working to bring more women into the profession.
Aletheia Silcott, vice president of human resources for Astec, joined the company two years ago and hopes more women will consider a career in manufacturing.
For American Business Women’s Day, Silcott shared some insight into her career journey, advice for working women, and why more women should pursue a career in manufacturing.
Q1: What would you tell your younger self? What you think is best for you, may not necessarily be true. Your career path might not be linear, so be open to opportunities that give you experience and add to your professional toolbox. Keep moving. Companies transform quickly, so unless you’re in an industry-leading organization, you need to move around and experience different things.
Q2: What advice do you have for other working women? You may never feel you’re all the way ready for that next step in your career but give it a shot. The odds are small your perfect readiness will align with when the perfect opportunity becomes available, so take a leap. Also, it’s natural to have impostor syndrome and experience self-doubt. Work through it, and on those days when you rocked it, pause, and breathe it in.
Q3: What role have women role models or men who were allies played in your career? I admire pieces of different people from my career. It’s important to have peers who stand beside you, mentors to show you the path, and sponsors to say your name in rooms you’re not in. Find inspiration in those with shared experiences and who may look like you but be open to inspiration. It can come in many forms.
Q4: What advice do you have for those who wish to support women? As leaders, one of our biggest responsibilities is to grow other leaders. In addition to mentoring, we can support women by using our social and political capital to provide visibility and sponsorship. Being their advocate can help position them for critical roles and stretch assignments they may not have otherwise been considered for.
Q5: Why is it important to get more women involved in manufacturing? The infrastructure industry is heavily male, but there are women in it, and more are coming. It’s important to know your customer, and to design for your customer, but you can’t do that without that representation in your company. Representation matters for retention and building a strong company culture, as well.
Q6: Why should women consider a career at Astec? It’s groundbreaking. I’m proud to say I’m one of the firsts and get the opportunity to develop and grow something. Also, the company has a great story, in terms of how we were founded, what we believe and what we want to do in the world. It’s fantastic to be a part of something that noble.For job openings at Astec, visit our Careers page.