Learn About Manufacturing Pathways: Women in Manufacturing

Boeing Workforce Development hosted several virtual “Manufacturing Lunch and Learns” this fall for students and instructors at all partner programs, including Core Plus Aerospace. We got a chance to sit in and we’re excited to share some notes from the series! Make sure to check out the recording here.

At a recent session focused on Women in Manufacturing, more than 40 students and instructors heard from four long-time Boeing employees about their experiences as women working in a male-dominated field. The panelists shared their career pathways, how they overcame challenges and obstacles, and their advice for students.

As Chief Mechanic for Product Development, Jennifer Radtke was the first woman in her position at Boeing. Radtke’s interest in mechanics was sparked by her family, who worked in the automotive industry. When Radtke began her career, one challenge was proving to herself that she possessed the skills necessary to thrive in a manufacturing career. She persisted and advanced in her career through hard work, being accountable for her abilities, and not being afraid of failure.

“If something interests you, follow it,” said Radtke, who works in Product Development supporting aircraft design and the future production system. “People will take note of your integrity as well as your ambition.”

Teresa Olympio, director of One Boeing Production System (737), began her Boeing career 14 years ago as a finance analyst in Fabrication after receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. Now a senior executive at the company, Olympio has worked with suppliers from all over the world.

Olympio spoke about the obstacles she overcame as the first person in her family to attend college and her path to finding confidence as a woman in manufacturing. When she has encountered people who might doubt her abilities based on her gender, she has challenged herself to work hard and demonstrate her knowledge.

Several panelists agreed that their biggest challenge was proving to themselves that they were capable of a successful manufacturing career.

Kaytie Elder started her Boeing career as an electrician 14 years ago. While at Boeing, Elder completed her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in organizational leadership. She is now a senior leader in Final Assembly (737).

“Once I found what I wanted to do and what I was good at, I just kept pushing,” Elder said about finding success in manufacturing.

When Teri Finchamp, director at Boeing’s Future Production System, began working at Boeing more than 30 years ago, she was one of the only women on the factory floor. Finchamp, who has a degree in engineering, found support among other employees. She also garnered respect among her teammates for her engineering skills, which helped manufacturers solve problems.

“Never believe that you can’t, because you can,” Finchamp said. “Don’t let the stereotypes get you down. You will overcome any obstacle you run into if this is your true desire and something you really want to do.”

Advice for students

Finding mentors and support systems both inside and outside of work were key to panelists’ success.

“I have a lot of mentors that are both male and female that have provided amazing guidance and have become a great sounding board for me,” Olympio said.

Panelists echoed the importance of being curious, not letting stereotypes stop them, and developing the courage to follow their passions.

“Even when you think you’re failing, you learn something,” Radtke said. “Stay in the game, be persistent, keep doing it, and be accountable for yourself. Show them what you got and don’t give up.”

“If you have any interest, then go for it,” Elder said of pursuing a manufacturing career. “Create your own path, create your own circle, and just push on forward.”

Panelists also advised female students interested in manufacturing to respect others, speak up for themselves, and learn hands-on skills. The speakers emphasized the many paths available for women in manufacturing.

“You can do anything you put your mind to,” said Olympio. “At the end of the day, it’s so rewarding.”

A recording is available here.