Washington, D.C., -  The Manufacturing Institute, the workforce and education partner of the National Association of Manufacturers, today announced the recipients for the 2020 STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Ahead Awards. The STEP Ahead Awards honor women who have demonstrated excellence and leadership in their careers across all levels of the manufacturing industry, from the factory floor to the C-suite. On April 30, The Manufacturing Institute will recognize 130 recipients of the STEP Ahead Awards at a reception and gala in Washington, D.C. 

“Women are significantly underrepresented in manufacturing, and the industry is in the midst of a workforce crisis,” said Manufacturing Institute Executive Director Carolyn Lee. “Closing the gender gap in the industry will go a long way toward closing the skills gap, empowering more women to join manufacturing’s ranks and lifting the industry as a whole. The STEP Ahead Awards provide a platform to honor role models and motivate them to encourage the next generation of women in the manufacturing industry. The women being recognized are industry leaders—and inspirations to the women and girls who will follow their example and pursue careers in manufacturing.” 

“The 2020 STEP Ahead Honorees and Emerging Leaders represent the exciting opportunities available in manufacturing and help inspire more women to pursue these careers,” said 2020 STEP Ahead Chair and BASF Corporation President of Market and Business Development North America Teressa Szelest. “There is an evolution of the manufacturing workforce as more women enter into leadership roles, bringing innovative ideas and transforming how we work and increase productivity.”

Launched in 2012, the STEP Women’s Initiative is the nation’s marquee program to close the gender gap in manufacturing. STEP consists of the STEP Ahead Awards and professional leadership development program as well as regional STEP Forward events throughout the year. The initiative works to foster a 21st-century manufacturing workforce by elevating and inspiring women in the manufacturing industry through recognition, research and leadership, as well as by motivating alumnae to pay it forward by mentoring the next generation. In the first five years of the initiative, STEP Ahead Award winners have impacted more than 300,000 individuals—from peers in the industry to school-aged children.

The biggest challenge facing manufacturers continues to be the growing workforce crisis. Manufacturers struggling to find enough qualified workers can close the skills gap by 50% simply by bringing 10% more women into the industry. Women account for about half of the U.S. labor force but represent less than one-third of the manufacturing workforce. 

Earlier this year, the NAM and The Manufacturing Institute launched the “Creators Wanted” workforce campaign to tackle manufacturing’s perception challenge. The launchpad for these efforts is the “Creators Wanted Fund,” which has raised more than $14 million so far this year—half of which will go toward a nationwide perception tour and the other half going toward expanding The Manufacturing Institute’s initiatives, including the STEP Women’s Initiative.


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The Manufacturing Institute is the workforce and education partner of the National Association of Manufacturers. It is dedicated to supporting the manufacturing workforce of today and growing the manufacturing workforce of tomorrow. It does so through a variety of programs designed to excite, educate and empower with a particular focus in four key areas: women, veterans, students and workers. The Manufacturing Institute also serves as the leading authority on data and research for the industry through its Center for Manufacturing Research, closely examining issues of importance to manufacturers both to help understand them and illuminate what needs to be done to solve them. For more information, please visit http://www.themanufacturinginstitute.org.

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