With the start of March begins Women's History Month, an apt time to recognize women in the field. The Manufacturing Institute (MI)—the workforce development and education partner of the National Association of Manufacturers—has announced it will recognize Erin Ashcroft of STIHL, Inc., with a STEP Ahead Award. The STEP Ahead Awards honor women who have demonstrated excellence and leadership in their careers and represent all levels of the manufacturing industry from the factory floor to the C-suite.
“It is an honor to be recognized by the Manufacturing Institute for this award,” said STIHL Inc. assistant general counsel Erin Ashcroft. “STIHL Inc. continues to empower me to make an impact both within the company and in my professional community. Whether I’m engaging with the next generation of attorneys at the Federal Bar Association or mentoring STIHL Inc. interns, I feel my work makes a difference.”
The STEP Women’s Initiative is the nation’s marquee program to close the gender gap in manufacturing. STEP works to foster a 21st-century manufacturing workforce by empowering 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.
The STEP Ahead Awards honor exceptional women in manufacturing and motivate them to mentor the next generation through an annual awards gala and associated leadership training program. The stories of these women and the leadership they show will help inspire next-generation female leaders in manufacturing and support current female talent within the industry. In the program’s first five years, STEP Ahead Award winners impacted more than 300,000 individuals—from peers in the industry to school-age children.
“The 2022 STEP Ahead Honorees and Emerging Leader awardees are excellent representatives of the exciting opportunities available in manufacturing,” said Denise Rutherford, 2022 STEP Ahead chair. “These remarkable women and the leadership they show help inspire next generation of female leaders to consider careers in manufacturing.”
The biggest challenge facing manufacturers continues to be the growing workforce crisis—the shortage of skilled talent to fill open positions. Manufacturers 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. STEP Ahead empowers and inspires women in the manufacturing industry. The goal is to build networks for women to have support in their industry and to elevate the role models who can motivate and mentor the next generation.
On April 28, the MI will recognize 130 recipients of the STEP Ahead Awards in Washington, D.C. The STEP Ahead Awards program will highlight each Honoree and Emerging Leader’s story, including their leadership and accomplishments in manufacturing.