You could say that women are breaking the mold in the composites industry. In companies, plants, labs and universities across the country, they are making an impact as leaders, engineers, researchers and plant managers. IACMI recently talked to three dynamic women in the composites and advanced materials industry and here’s what they had to say.
Director of Marketing Communications at Composites One and a founder of Women in the Composites Industry organization
Q: What’s been most rewarding about being a part of this industry?
A: One of the most unique things about the composites industry is that while it is traditional in many ways, I have always felt welcome for my contributions and encouraged to make an impact. I also appreciate the importance of composites materials in the future of manufacturing, and I am hopeful others will see how these flexible materials can help us all reach the much-needed goals of sustainability and life expectancy of finished products.
Q: What inspired the creation of Women in the Composites Industry?
A: I noticed there were women working in composites – smart, intelligent women – but that there wasn’t an organized way we could use our voices. Women in the Composites Industry is gaining momentum, and it is very exciting.
Q: What was the reaction from women in the industry?
A: Since announcing the formation of Women in the Composites Industry, we have had positive reaction across the board, not only from women but from men as well. As women working in our industry, we understand that we have a responsibility to use our voice to foster relationships with both female and male colleagues.
Q: Since its founding in 2020, how has it grown?
A: Women in the Composites Industry is still in the very early stages of development. It is exciting to know that there are experienced professionals – both women and men – out there who are willing to share their expertise with women beginning their careers or those who are looking to advance in their current positions.
Composite Manager at Scout Boats
Q: Tell me about your job at Scout Boats. What is the vacuum infusion program?
A: I’ve been at Scout Boats for 22 years, and I am the composite manager for the Yacht Division. The vacuum infusion program is a technique that uses vacuum pressure to pull resins through a laminate. We stack fiberglass and structural materials onto prefabricated molds and seal it with a vacuum bag. Once the proper pressure is achieved, we release the resin into the system.
Q: What sparked your interest in the field?
A: Scout Boats was supposed to be a summer job, but I fell in love with the place and people when I started working there. Scout Boats is continually expanding and doing new projects, so when I was informed about vacuum infusion, I had no idea what it was or how to do it, but I wanted to learn.
Q: What barriers did you encounter in such a male-based industry?
A: I developed a strong backbone dealing with a dominant male industry. I felt sometimes they thought I was incompetent because I was a woman. I addressed the issues I had, and it worked out great. The industry has been more profitable and diverse, and I think we are more socially responsible.
Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: It’s the people and learning how to do new things. Every time I come across a little girl, young lady or another woman and the conversation comes up about what you want to do in life, I tell them they can do anything they put their minds to with dedication and commitment.
IACMI Workforce Director
Q: What are the stats around women in this industry?
A: Most of the research is more general in nature around women in engineering or manufacturing. On a national level, there is only around 12% to 15% of females working as engineers. In IACMI’s internship program, we had an average of 30% female participants. We are deliberate in our efforts to reach young women to encourage them to consider nontraditional career fields.
Q: Is it a growing field for women?
A: Overall, we are seeing more emphasis in recruiting females and underrepresented audiences in STEM training and education programs. Currently, there are over 11,941 composite technicians currently employed in the United States, 17% of which are women. The average age of an employed composite technician is 45 years old.
Q: What is IACMI doing to help get more women involved?
A: IACMI is involved in several initiatives with our partners to increase awareness, amplify female role models and bring focus to the composites industry as a whole. We’ve offered a number of webinars that include a strong focus in female participation in the composites industry.
Q: What would you say to encourage young women to think about being a part of this industry?
A: Jobs in the composites industry are diverse and offer a pathway to a satisfying career. I would encourage young women to seek out mentorship from professors in STEM, associations like SWE (Society of Women Engineers) and involvement in programs like First Robotics and SAMPE (Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering). Of course, in composites (Women in Composites). It’s never too soon to start building a professional network and gaining experiences to help better understand the opportunities to the right career.