A group of 55 women congregated at USG Corp. in Cloquet on Tuesday, July 23, for a Women in Manufacturing (WIM) conference. The women met to network and learn with other women in leadership at various USG plants around the United States and Canada.
WIM began in 2013 and the women continue to meet annually. About 33% of USGs department managers and engineers are female or people of color. The company is working toward changing the perception of manufacturing jobs and continues to employ people in STEM careers.
There were several guest speakers and presentations throughout the two-day event.
Penny Dieryck, a retired colonel from the 148th Fighter Wing in of Duluth and a Red Cross member, spoke to the group Tuesday.
“I am so proud of all of you,” Dieryck told the group of women. She encouraged women who transferred to new areas to get out and know their communities. She also cautioned them to put their phones down and interact with people as well as being very selective on what they put on social media.
“Communication with men is a lot different than communication with women,” Dieryck said. “Guys need to tease one another. Women say 'I’m sorry,' maybe too much.”
She encouraged women to be assertive without being aggressive and gave examples of how a woman can turn down extra work politely, but firmly.
Out of the 55 attendees, four were from the Cloquet location. Erin Stewart is one of two women who are constellation managers out of eight total managers in Cloquet. She has been in Cloquet for a year, but with USG for five years. She said she has felt respected by her male counterparts at USG.
Roxanne Shea, a 33-year employee with USG, began as a secretary, put herself through college, and worked her way up to production reporting/inventory control manager. She has worked at five plants over the years and has been in Cloquet one year.
They acknowledge that women manage differently than men. According to an earlier workshop in the day, women tend to be more emotional and pay more attention to details than men. Men tend to be more direct in speaking to others.
“Men can walk out of the room and forget,” Stewart said. “Women don't, we keep thinking about it.”
A few things they took away from the event was don't be married to the job and try to be more direct and less emotional when managing.
They had a few words of advice for women interested in leadership roles.
“Go for it; don't be afraid,” Shea said. “For a long time, I was scared to go into a management role. “I had a lot of good managers who said, 'We won't let you fail.'"
The women assembled 250 Red Cross comfort kits for both families who lost their homes to fire and at-risk veterans. USG donated supplies. The women lined up and picked from a selection of donated personal general products, then choose to add either male products or female products to fill their pillow cases. When they finished, they handed the filled pillow cases to a Red Cross employee.
The hygiene kits will be distributed in the local community as need arises.