The manufacturing industry was at one time a primarily male dominated field and the automotive aspect of this industry was even more so. Times have changed and women have been involved and led the way in many of the fields of manufacturing in the automotive industry for several years. There are no longer gender barriers that have to be crossed, and women who have performed to a level of excellence that leads the way in their fields have recently been honored and applauded for their hard work and commitment to excellence in their fields of work by the entire industry.

These women were honored at the reception held by The Manufacturing Institute which awarded the Women in Manufacturing STEP Ahead Award. STEP stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Production and is part of a larger initiative. This program was launched in 2012 to promote and examine the role of women in the manufacturing industry by recognizing their achievements, helping with research and development and identifying leadership to bring in the strong and talented women that we see throughout the manufacturing industry today. This program has been successful in aiding the advancement of highly skilled and driven women and 130 recipients were recognized this past week.

At the reception in Washington, D.C. two women among the group are part of Toyota. These two were recognized for their dedication and commitment to excellence. These Toyota women are Lis Lawrence who has been with Toyota for 28 years and is a bod weld manager at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing facility in Kentucky, and Nora Arellano who is a senior engineering manager at Toyota Technical Center in York, Michigan. Ms. Arellano is a graduate of Purdue University. Each of these women was recognized for their leadership and accomplishments in the manufacturing industry.

The honorees of the STEP Ahead award are women who have demonstrated the excellence and leadership in their careers that show impressive results at every level of the manufacturing industry. Those honored are nominated by their peers for the significant contributions they make to the field they work in such as improving productivity; reduce costs and increasing customer satisfaction. Each honoree shows that women can take a path that leads to an impressive career in the manufacturing industry and become part of something much greater than themselves in order to produce the results needed and help improve their own company.

Recently a survey from Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute found that six out of ten open skilled production positions are left unfilled because of a major shortage of talent. This is partially attributed to fewer women in this industry than what might be expected. Currently women make up close to half of the work force of the world, but only about 27 percent of the manufacturing industry, which is a large disparity. The STEP Ahead Initiative is working to help bridge this gap and attract women who want to work in manufacturing to see the exemplary careers some these recipients have had which can hopefully bring in more talent.

Certainly, Toyota is proud of its two recipients and the gender gap in the manufacturing industry is smaller than it was in the past, but this gap needs to continue to close in order to have more women in the industry. These two impressive ladies were part of the celebrations to show the significance of their contributions over the length of their careers thus far. As the STEP Ahead Initiative grows so will the number of women in manufacturing which will someday reflect the same percentages as the rest of the industries of the world.