International Women’s Day was March 8 – an annual day to commemorate women’s achievements throughout history and across nations. It is also known as the United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace. In some countries it is a public holiday and day of celebration, while in other places it is a day of protest. In recognition of this day, I reached out to Amy Ericson, PPG Senior Vice President, Packaging Coatings, Specialty Materials and Corporate Strategy, to discuss her leadership style and success, how women are influencing the manufacturing industry, and her advice to women entering the workforce.
PCI: What is your leadership style and how do you nurture and motivate your global teams?
Ericson: Trust, all the way. I trust that my teams are equipped with the resources and the skill sets to get the job done, and if they do not feel prepared, then I also trust that they will ask for my guidance. Time and time again, I have found that when you create a rewarding and trusting environment, people show up with their best work in hand and they are ready to face challenges head-on.
PCI: Can you describe what makes you personally successful on a day-to-day basis?
Ericson: I strive for balance on a daily basis, and am a firm believer in work-life integration. I travel frequently for work and I also oversee global businesses, so managing my time is crucial to my individual success and my growth as a leader. Multi-tasking is an age-old juggling act, and I focus on catching the most imperative items that are made of “glass” and then I focus on catching the items that are made of “rubber” and are less time-sensitive.
PCI: How are women influencing the manufacturing industry today?
Ericson: According to a joint 2015 report by Deloitte, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Manufacturing Institute and the APICS Supply Chain Council, there were more than 12 million manufacturing workers in the United States, accounting for 8.6 percent of the workforce. In the next decade, approximately 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled, but, the skills gap is expected to result in 2 million unfilled roles.
Women traditionally have been underrepresented in manufacturing, and they present an incredible opportunity for manufacturers across the United States to tap into a fresh pool of talent, innovation and perspective. When manufacturers make a concerted effort to recruit, retain and promote women, their unique perspectives can address challenges quickly in today’s global economy. I’ve seen firsthand that teams with diverse sets of experiences and backgrounds develop the best, most creative solutions.
PCI: What possibilities are there for women in the manufacturing and broader STEM industries?
Ericson: There are countless paths for women to pursue in the STEM world, and the jobs involved vary greatly, from R&D to operations to the C-suite. By actively coaching and telling women of all ages, backgrounds and education levels that they have infinite potential, our generation has the power to alleviate the gender gap present in the industry. In my day-to-day operations, I observe women leading and influencing at the C-suite level, developing the next scientific breakthrough, or managing activity on a factory floor. There are countless ways women can leave their mark on the manufacturing industry.
PCI: Would you recommend a career in STEM to your four daughters? What advice would you offer them?
Ericson: I do encourage all of my daughters to pursue careers in STEM. In fact, my first two daughters are in STEM majors today. Careers in STEM tackle the biggest challenges our population faces like climate change, health and wellness, and zero waste. The number of career opportunities in this space will only continue to grow over time, as we become a more digitally intelligent world.
I encourage them to read everything in front of them, stay curious and to begin visualizing what their ideal career entails. Does that career have you traveling often? Do you like building things with your hands? Would you like to work in a lab? Would you find that kind of work fun and fulfilling?
Those of us who have spent our careers in STEM need to be sure we create excitement about the possibilities of what science and all the associated topics can do to better society.
PCI: What advice would you offer to women entering the workforce?
Ericson: Always find new ways to build your credibility within your organization. People of all levels need to know that they can trust what you say and that you are a credible ally. Credibility starts with building expertise, so I truly believe anyone can be an expert in whatever it is that they manage. Your credibility will solidify as you continue to meet and exceed expectations of those around you.
Secondly, enlist to take on new challenges, even if those experiences are out of your understanding. If a project falls on your team’s lap that requires you to work with individuals outside of your circle, raise your hand and volunteer to lead or support the assignment. By doing this you will learn more about your organization and simultaneously grow your network of experts in the process.
I would like to thank Amy for her insights, her example in leadership, and her efforts to encourage young girls and women to pursue careers in manufacturing.