No country for old men

Once a male-dominated industry, manufacturers are now embracing women in executive roles. 

By Jonathan Hamelin. 

When it comes to changing demographics in manufacturing, Hayley Milloy is more than happy to throw around titles.

Milloy is the marketing and program coordinator for Women in Manufacturing, a national association based in Independence, Ohio, dedicated to supporting, promoting, and inspiring females pursuing a career in the manufacturing industry.

Today, women comprise roughly 36 per cent of the manufacturing workforce in Canada, compared to 29 per cent in the U.S. Of that number, however, the corner office is becoming especially female-centric.

“We represent nearly 700 members, from around 350 companies,” says Milloy. “Half our members hold titles such as CEO, president, or director — mid- to high-level leadership roles.”

Back at home on the Prairies, Richelle Titemore is a shining example. Titemore is the CEO of S3 Enterprises Inc. in Swift Current — a group of companies providing manufacturing solutions to the agricultural equipment sector.

“In North America, the institutional barriers for success in all industries, including manufacturing, have really been broken down by the generations of women that came before me,” says Titemore. “I’m really thankful for that.”

After graduating from the University of Lethbridge with a Bachelor of Management degree in accounting, Titemore spent more than four years as a business instructor for Saskatchewan Polytechnic, before assuming the position of controller for REM Enterprises, the predecessor to S3, in 2005. She was promoted to general manager in 2012, and was named CEO in 2014.

Titemore credits hard work, and high expectations of both herself and those around her, for her success.

“The only true boundary to what can be achieved is our imagination; everything else can be conquered,” she exclaims. “I am constantly on the lookout for like-minded people who are compelled to the pursuit of excellence.”

Next door in Manitoba, Colleen Dyck has leveraged manufacturing as an opportunity to be her own boss.

Dyck’s journey began in 2003 as a new mother training for a triathlon. Put off by the taste of energy bars currently on the market, she created — over the span of nine years — GORP Clean Energy Bars, formulated to deliver the ideal composition of protein, fibre, Omega-3, and antioxidants. And taste exceptional.

“It can be tough to juggle family, business, and the dream of creating something that will take on a life of its own and do some good,” says Dyck, who received top honour at the 2016 Mompreneur Awards. “I have found the key to sustaining success in this business is not having an ego, and surrounding yourself with people a lot smarter than you.”

At Women in Manufacturing, Milloy maintains that there needs to be accelerated efforts to reach out to the next generation of women, to encourage them to consider a career in manufacturing, and help shape future CEOs and entrepreneurs.

Dyck agrees, and acknowledges that women like her have a large role to play. She readily makes herself available for any public speaking opportunities that arise and regularily invites youth from local schools to tour her production facility in the bedroom community of Niverville, roughly 30 kilometres south of Winnipeg.

“Manufacturing is such an incredible, fulfilling career option, and I don’t think a lot of people really see that it’s there because [the industry] is so behind-the-scenes,” says Dyck. “We have to tell our stories. Our brains are different than men, and we handle things differently. The more diverse your teams are, the better results you’re going to get at the end of it.”

Titemore is also eager to engage the ‘next generation’ — albeit, with a slightly different approach. She believes the future of manufacturing will be driven by passionate innovators, who have balanced teams of experienced, disciplined, creative, and talented people, regardless of gender.

“Manufacturing offers unparalleled opportunities for training and advancement, along with personal growth,” says Titemore. “It’s an industry that offers employment from unskilled through to executive-level positions, with competitive salaries and predictable work schedules. The velocity of change and the incorporation of new technologies and processes means there’s always something new to learn, some challenge to conquer.

“Women need manufacturing.”