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Nancy Westcott

Quality Insider

Women in Manufacturing

Tips from the top with manufacturing entrepreneur Nancy Westcott

Published: Monday, November 9, 2020 - 12:02

October 2020 was manufacturing month in the United States, an event that is normally a cause for celebration. Even more so, with the news that U.S. manufacturing accelerated to a near two-year high in August. At a time when good news is in short supply, it’s been four consecutive months of growth for the sector.

With the coronavirus pandemic raging on, however, that enthusiasm is being tempered. Nonfarm payrolls are about 10.7 million below their pre-pandemic level, while the unemployment rate has more than doubled from September last year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a year ago, 3.1 percent of women were unemployed, compared with 3.2 percent of men. It’s now 7.7 percent of women and 7.4 percent of men.

Women make up almost half of the overall workforce in the United States, but in manufacturing, that drops to less than one in three. In my role as company president of GoatThroat Pumps, I'm trying to buck this trend and set an example for would-be female entrepreneurs.

My father started training me with tools in his shop when I was six years old, so it never occurred to me that I couldn’t do anything I wanted. I think building things is in my blood.

All of my careers have been in men’s jobs, and I had a great good fortune to always be respected for my knowledge except for once or twice I was considered a “girl”... until I showed them that, not only did I know what I was doing, I probably did it better than they did. I never really had the experience of seeing attitudes toward women change because I already just did the job and was respected for it and got promoted.

Women have a totally different approach to business and manufacturing because they are collaborative. The job has to get done no matter what, but you can work with people and train them to help you do the job and help you do the job better.

Men seem to turn everything into a race and a competition, which is not the usual way for women. Winning for women is that everybody gets to finish. Or at least that is the way for me. If you want to work in manufacturing as a woman, be curious, ignore naysayers, don’t be afraid of it, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

I think advertising and marketing images, photographs, videos, and stories of women in manufacturing workplaces encourage women to try STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programs and manufacturing. If companies would take more women on as interns, it would be much easier for them to find their way into manufacturing jobs. Around here, in Connecticut, Sikorsky Helicopters does a great job of hiring engineering interns, and a lot of them are women. And then they get full-time jobs after college. And the women get to be bosses and look for other women to work at their company. Everyone wins.

Everyone who comes to work at GoatThroat Pumps gets mentored and cross-trained. I want them to learn as much as they can so that I can give more of the responsibilities to properly trained individuals. That is the only way your company can grow. I’d like to think I’m helping to bring through the next generation of women-owned businesses by mentoring young female entrepreneurs, and to help others follow in my footsteps.”

Even though I had never worked in manufacturing before 2014, Nancy took the time to teach me. She mentored me in everything that she knew until I knew it back and forth. She has taught me how to speak up for myself, and that all opinions matter in production and manufacturing. Nancy allows for a collaborative workplace that I have never experienced in my other employment. In turn, I feel that this approach of mentoring has enabled me and other employees to want to give our best back to her.
—Lissa Rustic Pagano, GoatThroat employee

According to a study carried out by The Manufacturing Institute, APICS, and Deloitte, 29 percent of women in 2017 (up from 12 percent in 2015) think the school system encourages female students to pursue a career in the manufacturing industry.

Forty-two percent of women in 2017 (compared to 24 percent in 2015) are now ready to encourage their daughter or female family member to pursue a career in their industry. More than half of women have also observed positive changes in their industry’s attitude toward female professional employees during the last five years. And that’s something I want to encourage.

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About The Author

Nancy Westcott’s picture

Nancy Westcott

Nancy Westcott is the President and CTO (Chief Technology Officer) at GoatThroat Pumps, her third successful entrepreneurial business which she launched in 2000 with the express purpose of manufacturing, marketing and selling unique, environmentally preferable transfer pumps. In 2016, the pump design won Product of the Year Gold Award for Fluid Handling. Westcott is a member of the US delegation to ISO (International Standards Organization) for agricultural equipment. Professional affiliations include AIChE (American Institute of Chemical Engineers), ASABE (American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers), Institute for Sustainability, and AAPSE (American Association of Pesticide Safety Educators). Westcott has a B.S. from Tufts University and a M.A and M.Ed. from Columbia University.