By Evan Casey
Three U.S. Senators, including Senator Tammy Baldwin, held a roundtable last Saturday to discuss how to get more women to work in the manufacturing industry. The roundtable included eight women who work in manufacturing currently, including representatives from Harley Davidson and Komatsu Mining Corp., both based in the Milwaukee area.
U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined Baldwin in the discussion which took place at WRTP/ BIG STEP, a job training center that works with Milwaukee manufacturers to place individuals in sustainable jobs.
Lenora Gales took part in the discussion. She works with Komatsu Mining Corp. in West Allis. Gales believes there’s a great need for women to work in manufacturing because of the benefits and the chance to sustain a long-term career.
“Everyone isn’t going to be a doctor or a lawyer,” said Gales. “I think we need to have more women going into schools to tell others about the benefits of working in manufacturing.”
According to The State of Working Wisconsin 2016, released by the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, nearly three times the amount of men hold manufacturing jobs compared to women.
The three senators said they will be trying to get federal grant money to help overcome some of the struggles women face in manufacturing, such as paying for childcare or training. They also said there is a push at the federal level to make technical colleges more affordable.
“For a long time, girls have gotten the message that these jobs aren’t for them… but we need all Americans to engage in what they want to do,” said Sen. Hassan.
Sen. Baldwin said she wants more women to be interested in this industry.
“I remember being in school and taking an industrial arts class and thinking that it’s so cool that I get to make this,” said Sen. Baldwin. “It’s hard to get that exposure for communities that don’t have those programs.”
Gales said she was surprised when she found out she was chosen to be on the roundtable, but she said it was a good opportunity to hear from other women about their struggles.
“I wear a shirt that says steel toes to stilettos,” said Gales. “As a woman, I’m capable of changing and I can transform to where I need to be.”