Skip to main content
Home » Women in Skilled Trades » What It Takes for Women to Succeed in Manufacturing
Women in Skilled Trades

What It Takes for Women to Succeed in Manufacturing

Like many of the skilled trades, manufacturing has long been a male-dominated industry, but its future depends on having greater gender diversity. Wanda Richardson, director of manufacturing for Brasscraft Manufacturing Company, talks about what women should know before pursuing a career in the industry and why a job in manufacturing can be extremely rewarding.

Wanda Richardson

Director of Manufacturing, Brasscraft Manufacturing Company

What is the biggest misconception about having a career in manufacturing?

A career in manufacturing is rewarding in many ways. There is a sense of purpose in knowing we are trusted to supply products that keep homes and businesses running across the world. It’s fulfilling to see products evolve in front of your eyes and know you had a hand in their creation. There is comradery in craftsmanship. We leave work every day knowing what we do matters. 

There is a perception, however, that you need an engineering or technical degree to pursue manufacturing. I have found strong communication skills are more important, plus a willingness to engage and learn.

What advice would you give to women on breaking into the manufacturing industry? 

Be willing to listen. Admit what you do not know and ask questions. Surround yourself with a team that complements your skillset. You must realize this is a journey that requires just as much learning as teaching.

Why is it important to have gender diversity in the skilled trades?

All aspects of diversity are critical, including gender. A team with a variety of backgrounds and experiences allows you to more thoroughly assess the current state and increase the visionary options for the future state. Everyone’s lens is slightly different, which is a tremendous benefit and advantage to identifying improvements. 

What skills do you use every day, technical or otherwise? 

We’re in the plumbing business, which is a craft that requires precision. We know professional plumbers see their work as a reflection of themselves, and that they put their reputation in our hands when they trust our products. 

We take pride in ensuring a result that lives up to the quality they expect, and there are a lot of technical skills that go into that — throughout design, engineering, and manufacturing. More broadly, I’ve found that the ability to listen, effectively communicate, and make the complex simple is critical. Situations are only as complex as we allow them to be. 

How have you navigated the challenges of working in a male-dominated industry, and what advice would you give to women looking to ascend the industry ladder?

You must be willing to be taught. You must stay inquisitive. Always have a thirst to understand and do not be intimidated by those who have more expertise. Use their knowledge to educate yourself and others. 

How do you measure success in your current role?

I believe the growth of your team is a direct measure of your ability to influence the success of others. The more your team grows, the more the organization grows. The hope is that influence continues to positively impact the diversity within the organization and create opportunities for more female leadership. 

My passion for leadership extends to the next generation. I’m involved in various activities at our company — internships, community outreach, sponsorships, and scholarships — focused on educating youth about manufacturing and the skilled trades. We take pride in protecting and promoting the craft. We must invest in its future today.

Next article