Sudha Chandrasekharan, general manager of the Trelleborg Sealing Solutions facility in Denver, is passionate about promoting women in the workforce, especially in areas such as manufacturing, technology and supply chain management.
“The strongest women are those who build each other up,” said Chandrasekharan, who spearheaded Trelleborg’s recently launched Women Influencers program.
The Women Influencers program, which connects women leaders in the manufacturing industry, from the production floor to the C-Suite, delivers unique access to thought leadership and resources to help guide and support the next generation of women leaders. The program comprises panel discussions, interviews and networking.
Chandrasekharan, the catalyst for the Women Influencers program, was inspired to create such a platform because of the encouragement she received in her own life growing up. Born and raised in India, she was immersed in a society in which few women work outside of the home. But Chandrasekharan’s father and grandfather challenged the status quo, always encouraging her and her mother to find their place in society and be independent by working outside the home.
“My grandfather told my mother to work hard and go to school. I saw her become such a confident woman because she was encouraged to take control of her own career. My father laid the same foundation for me,” says Chandrasekharan. “It’s important for all women to have a support system and someone who gives them an equal opportunity to be successful.”
A major focus of the discussion was on how to overcome common misconceptions about women in leadership. One common misconception the panelists discussed concerned credibility. “I heard from many women in the panel discussion that they feel they give 150% effort at work to get the same recognition as a man who gives 80% effort to the same job,” Chandrasekharan notes. “Additionally, the panelists told me that they are not always appreciated for the work they put in and that sometimes they actually receive appreciation simply because they are female.”
Several participants commented that the most effective way to overcome these misconceptions is to focus on mentoring the next generation. Women in the manufacturing industry also need to encourage each other, be bold and use their voices for change.
“The panelists were very excited to have the opportunity to bring visibility to the topic of bridging the gap for women in manufacturing, technology, and supply chain roles. The response from other women was positive as well,” says Chandrasekharan. “Once we launched the program and the panel discussion, I heard from many professional women that they were motivated by the discussion which involved women influencers from multiple companies.”
Riding on the enthusiasm from the panel discussion, Chandrasekharan already has other Women Influencers activities in the works, including a social media campaign encouraging women to recognize and tag other female influencers, as well as a video series featuring Trelleborg women meant to motivate and support other professionals in the fields of manufacturing, supply chain, and technology.
Click here to hear the whole conversation on How to Bridge the Gap for Women in Manufacturing, Technology and Supply Chain Roles.
Editor’s Note: Machine Design's Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) hub compiles our coverage of gender representation issues affecting the engineering field, in addition to contributions from equity seeking groups and subject matter experts within various subdisciplines. Click here for more.