In honor of International Women’s Day, the Hawthorne team interviewed accomplished businesswoman and partner, Pam McDonough, the current Chief Executive Officer and President of the Alliance for Industry and Manufacturing. Take a look at our Q&A to read Pam’s take on the state of Illinois manufacturing and women seeking to enter careers in industry and business.
Also, RSVP here to hear Pam, Bridget Gainer, Lori Healey and Marilynn Gardner speak about being women in leadership positions at our panel discussion, The View from the Other Side of the Glass Ceiling: A Conversation on Leadership, on Monday, March 21.
Having worked closely with the workforce development system throughout the decades, what has been the biggest change that you have seen in the workforce development system in the past 15 years?
Pam McDonough: The change that has most dramatic negative impact on workforce development was our shift in the 1970’s away from teaching high school students the skills needed for construction and manufacturing. That’s when we decided everyone had to go to college. That was the beginning of the end of the Secondary School pipeline for both construction and manufacturing.
We are now trying feverishly to catch up through a statewide focus on creating STEM programs to get students trained in Science, Technology, Engineering and Manufacturing so they can enter a wide group of career paths that use science and math. Somehow 45 years ago, we deemed these construction and manufacturing jobs as “less”. They are anything but “less”, and in fact can provide a great living for many people that would prefer to work with their hands.
What do you think are some of the key ways to reach women for possible careers in manufacturing?
Pam McDonough: During my time in the construction business, it became apparent that, generally, it takes a certain type of woman to be attracted to careers in industry and manufacturing. First and foremost, it is important that we invest in a robust marketing campaign to highlight and build awareness about opportunities in the manufacturing industry in general, then the focus on attracting women to the field can follow.
One of the ways that we have been working on this is through the hosting of Alliance for Industry and Manufacturing events. In fact, we are planning to host a “Celebrating Women in Manufacturing” event this year that will include a panel of successful women owners of manufacturing companies as well as accomplished women in the corporate and government sectors. We want to take a look at the advanced manufacturing aspects of this career path as well as any specific challenges for women in this profession.
What are key things that the industry can do to start increasing opportunities for women and minorities while moving the industry forward in 2016?
Pam McDonough: There are actually a significant number of minorities and women in manufacturing – on the line, not necessarily in more senior and ownership positions. That said, developing customized apprenticeships and career paths for women and minorities would be one step in the process. This is an area that we are currently looking at developing - a sector specific initiative in our region and beyond.
As far as what is on the horizon in 2016, technological advances will enable us to utilize co-working “Maker Spaces”, like Catalyze Chicago, to be able to develop an even more diverse range of career options and produce prototypes much quicker and cheaper.
As a woman, what are things that you have done to help advance yourself in a male dominated industry?
Pam McDonough: Most of my career has been performing in male dominated areas – first as a lobbyist starting when there were less than five women total lobbying in Springfield, then I moved to working for the State’s building and transportation departments – which were not particularly friendly for women at the time. After being one of the first woman to lobby in the construction area, I moved to being a lobbyist for the Bankers Association. My “swan song” from there was being appointed as the first woman to head Illinois’ Economic Development Agency. That was an amazing journey to the top.
The most important things that I did was to be confident, to stand my ground, educate myself on the issues and not be afraid to let someone else get credit for my work. I called it the “bank shot” approach, meaning getting someone else with more power or status than you have to help you bring your goals to fruition.
I also have spent a great deal of time working for the inclusion of women and minorities in government procurement and employment. For me, it is not just professional, it is also personal, I have two daughters and if I can improve the situation and opportunities for them and others, I will feel fulfilled.