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Female Leadership Has a Ripple Effect in the Manufacturing Industry

Karen Norheim shares how she cultivates motivation and grit in her company, as well as how she tries to be a role model for other female professionals. 

Karen Norheim

President & COO, American Crane and Equipment Corporation

Can you share more on your day to day tasks as well as your goals in your role?

My responsibility as president at American Crane is to foster and nurture an environment where everyone can thrive. I provide leadership and focus to allow my people to shine and do what they do best. My daily activities can vary from planning sales and marketing activities to evaluating a business process for efficiency and cost savings. Some days, I am on the shop floor, while others I review financials.

How did you come to work in the manufacturing industry? How has it inspired you in other parts of your life?

One of the major milestones in my life was the decision to work for my father. It’s been more than 18 years since I made one of the best decisions of my life. Through my work with American Crane and Equipment Corporation, I found my passion for manufacturing.  If it hadn’t been for my father, I may not have considered a career in manufacturing. I would have missed out on the most rewarding job I have ever had.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career? How did you overcome that challenge?

The biggest challenge I have faced in my career was stepping in to take over leadership of our company. At the time, our culture was good. We have been successful even in tough times. However, I came to realize I needed to create a cultural reboot. We needed to re-calibrate and make sure we had a clear understanding of who we are and where we were going. Like a gardener, we till the soil of our garden by developing our mission, vision, and values. Grit matters. Through planting, growing and harvesting, we create a ripple effect in our organization. It has been almost 2 years since launch, and the results have exceeded my expectation. That being said, there have been challenges, and we are not even close to our full potential. The work of a gardener is never done. Our cultural transformation is good for our employees and is good for our business.

What advice can you give to girls and women who want to enter into the manufacturing field?

I noticed a long time ago that I was one of the few women in the room. Too often, young women are not aware of the opportunities available in manufacturing. But there is significant overlap between what young women want in careers and the attributes of careers in manufacturing today. To those wanting to enter our field, join us! There is exciting work to be done and a path that still needs paving for future generation of women.

Lastly, I would recommend cultivating your grit. This is one of the key characteristics of successful people. Grit is the raw endurance, perseverance, and passion to keep you going despite obstacles.

Grit is knowing who you are and where you are headed, moving determinedly forward with eyes fixed on the mark.  

What does it mean to you to be a strong female leader in this industry?

Many years ago, I attended a conference. There was one panelist from a group of leaders who had a profound impact on me. I can remember when she changed my thinking and inspired me to find my path. This woman doesn’t know who I am, and doesn’t know the impact she had, but by her acting as a role model she created a ripple effect that touch me.

Role models inspire us and give us a vision for what is possible. By being a role model and promoting our pride and or passion for being a part of the manufacturing industry, we can inspire the next generation to enter our industry. If not for my dad, I may not have gotten into manufacturing. I am proud to follow in his footsteps, creating ripple effects by being a role model today.

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