Manufacturing evolves every day. There are new advances, business strategies, and modern techniques that continue to be adapted. But pivotal moments in history have brought manufacturing to where it is today. And three women have played an important part in the advancement of manufacturing throughout history: Madame C.J. Walker, Rosie the Riveter, and Stephanie Kwolek. These women have made an impact on history and continue to inspire women to join the manufacturing industry today.
Madame CJ Walker
Sara Breddlove, or more famously known as Madam CJ Walker, left her mark on the manufacturing industry after starting her own manufacturing company and becoming who Biography describes as one of the first American females to become a self-made millionaire. Walker opened her own factory and beauty school in 1908 and The Madame CJ Walker Manufacturing Company produced her line of cosmetics and trained sales beauticians. The advances she made through her own manufacturing business not only sparked profits but inspired women to become business owners and get involved in the manufacturing industry.
Rosie the Riveter
Rosie the Riveter embodied a strong woman showing that she can achieve anything. The famous poster was created in 1942 to recruit women to fill open positions in the industrial industry. Her fearless pose with the “We Can Do It” tagline inspired and encouraged women to join the industrial labor force during World War II. Mary Doyle Keefe was the inspiration behind the character and The Atlantic explains that she was not aware “Rosie the Riveter” was modeled after her until almost 40 years later. Although Keefe quickly resigned from the industrial workforce, Rosie the Riveter gave women an opportunity they may not have known was available to them during that time. Rosie the Riveter still inspires women today and became a figure that many look up to.
Stephanie Kwolek was a brilliant chemist and in 1965, she created Kevlar and her discovery was merely an accident. As Amazing Women in History describes, she was one of the first female chemists at DuPont and volunteered for a project to find a new lightweight fiber for tires. The solution she made was not as expected but once it
was spun, the new fiber was discovered. Kevlar has changed the way we manufacture clothing, building materials, airplanes, and so much more. It is mostly known for being used to make bullet proof vests but has many more uses. There is no other fiber with the strength and as lightweight as Kevlar.
Women in Manufacturing Today
Earlier this year, Kate Hulley who has worked in manufacturing for most of her life, was featured in an article in Small Business Heroes. In the article, “Kate speaks with great pride about running a company that is female-led; ‘Manufacturing is a sector I feel passionately about and figures show only a quarter of the industry workforce (26%) are actually women, so of course I would like to encourage more women to seek out careers in such a fascinating and diverse industry.’” There is so much passion behind this industry and women like Hulley are representing the industry well; and she is not alone. Many women are contributing to the industry and hopefully in time, we will be closer to closing the gender gap in manufacturing.