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Shan Cooper - Leadership Journey 1/5

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I do want to remind everyone, I think it's really important to begin with the why. You know, why are we here? And just refocus always on what's our mission. Why was the Women's Network created, why are we here? So I'm going to walk us through this and I'm only reading because I don't want to misstate. But basically, this group was really formed to inspire our employees to create an environment rich with inclusivity. Really with a special emphasis on women. It's an avenue to encourage networking, embrace collaboration, and empower current and future leaders. So as you think about why we're here today, and particularly as you listen to this message from Shan, let's extract from that, certainly all that we can to that end. I personally am very interested, I'm always interested in understanding how people ended up in manufacturing. To me it's almost an obsession. When I meet someone, male or female, and you go through that journey, that to me is a part of their story. So I'm really interested in hearing Shan's story today. It's also interesting to me too though, to understand that a lot of folks aren't drawn to manufacturing. When you hear Kathleen Edge talk about some of the challenges we have recruiting and retaining just people, women aside and certainly we're a special group when it comes to that challenge, to come in to manufacturing, it's something that is top of order importance for us. It's a priority and she actually quoted a statistic— and Kathleen, I'm probably, wherever she's sitting, probably going to misquote it even though I called you specifically to get the [laughing] exact statistic, but, it's less than 40%. 37% of all parents— 37% of parents will encourage their folks, so only 37% will encourage their young ladies and their young men, their children if you will, to pursue careers in manufacturing. So when you think about that, you know, I've always lived it, but it was interesting for me to hear that statistic. But then she goes on to explain, and it really turned a light on for me, she went on to explain that when you think about young women— so if you carve out these boys and girls going off to college, young men, young women— when you think about the young women in that mix, a lot of them look to their mothers, like it or not, they look to their mothers for that career guidance. That's who they talk to, that's who they connect with. In a lot of instances, if you look historically in manufacturing, you don't find a large percentage of women in manufacturing. So if you think about as a mother and the guidance you give your children, you're going to give them guidance based on your experiences. So if manufacturing isn't something you know, if you haven't worked in it, if you haven't looked around and seen other women be successful in that space, it's not going to be something that you necessarily guide your young girls to pursue. And when she said that, I thought back to my own experience and my family. So, I'm the youngest of five, I have four older brothers. My dad worked in the steel industry. He worked for US Steel his whole career in Pittsburgh. My mom was a stay-at-home mom. She was the one that kept things going, worked incredibly hard, and she was the person that I got a lot of my guidance from. But I also, my grandmother, was somebody who I relied on. And what was interesting, I grew up in an exceptionally small town, so for those of you local, think Bauden, but think really remote [laughs] like...45 minutes from Walmart kind of thing. So, going to the movies an hour away was a big trip. We were remote, very small, but we had one manufacturing facility in our town and it employed about 300 people. It was actually a garment manufacturing facility. So they made, they basically made uniforms and a lot of the women worked in that factory. My grandmother was one of them. So, again, it was sewing, if you think about what manufacturing really was, it was sewing and I guess it was okay for women to have those kind of jobs. Interestingly enough, the plant was run by men. So everybody in leadership was male and the women who worked in the plants were female and I remember as a young girl, my grandmother would take me to work and we'd walk the factory and she spoke with such pride of starting there like right out of high school. She was a helper and then she became a machine operator and she talked to me about her production, "Oh, you know, they still have never surpassed my production rate". And then she became a supervisor, she was the first female supervisor they had ever promoted. And then later, when I was walking the factory with her, she also became the first female production manager they had ever hired. And I remember talking with her about the jobs and she had such pride about her career progression but also about what they made. When we would go out to stores, she would point out, "You know, we make that uniform" or, "This is where ship that uniform". And there was just this pride ingrained in her that I think influenced me and made manufacturing feel a little bit more possible. Now my mom, the flip side, back to Kathleen's point, my mom was anti-manufacturing. It was, "That's a dead end job. Your grandmother was an exception. There's no career progression in manufacturing." My dad felt similarly. So when I went off to school and I wanted to study industrial safety, there wasn't a lot of support there. In fact, they made me go to a school— because my mom's fallback plan for me was, if none of that worked out, I was going to be a physical therapist [laughter] which to me just blows my mind because I don't have any patience. I would be awful. But the thought was, if you go to this particular school, they have a three plus three program. So when you get three years in and you go co-op and you go out in these big nasty steel mills and mining operations, and you understand that's not what you want to do, you'll have this fallback plan. I'm thankful often, every day, that the fallback plan isn't the route I went and that I had that influence and that guidance from my grandmother. When I got to school, what I realized— so I went into a program, it had 150 people. How many women do you think were in that program? Of all four years, studying industrial safety, how many women do you think? There were four! You're like a plant Kathleen— I mean Carol! Four! That's unbelievable that you knew that. I was the fifth. So you get to know those four pretty well and what was interesting to me is that they all had similar stories. Somebody had influenced them to go that direction. They understood somebody's story. So, fast forward to today. What is today about? Today, to me, is about a couple of things. One, and most importantly it's about understanding Shan's story. I haven't heard it but I understand it's very inspiring. And, it's to understand that there are very successful people who have come up through the manufacturing ranks. There is a path, there is opportunity, there is a journey that folks can be on. So when you look around this room, we all work in manufacturing, we work for a manufacturing company, very few of us actually work in manufacturing. Okay? So when we talk about that, I'm here to make a personal commercial. I certainly want you to look at Shan, I want you to look at people like Kathleen and I want you to look at each other because there's lots of folks in this room who did come out of that background.

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Duration: 8 minutes and 37 seconds
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Language: English
License: All rights reserved
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Views: 1
Posted by: southwire on May 29, 2018

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