2022 International Women's Week: #BreakingtheBias in the Manufacturing Industry
An interview with Molly Spaeder, Business Development Manager of Walker Filtration Inc. on the importance of gender equality and inclusion in the manufacturing industry.
Posted on March 9th, 2022
International Women’s Week is celebrated globally each year during the week of March 8th. It aims to celebrate the various achievements and contributions that women have made within society.
Most employers have realized the benefits of embracing gender equity. A wider range of ideas create better solutions and products, and an inclusive environment has the potential to boost staff morale. Manufacturing, however, remains a male-dominated industry in the United States. Of the 15.8 million working in various sectors of the manufacturing industry, only 30% of women make up the workforce in its entirety. Furthermore, only 1 in 4 women take on higher level leadership or corporate management positions of any kind.
Despite this, there are women who break this bias and find a career of longevity within the manufacturing industry. At Walker Filtration, women are encouraged to pursue long-term careers within their preferred sector of the manufacturing industry.
Breaking the Bias: Q&A Interview with Molly Spaeder
Molly Spaeder, Senior Manager of Business Development at Walker Filtration Inc. is celebrating her 10-year anniversary with the company later this March. She has worked hard to advance her career in the compressed air and gas industry during this time. Her experiences over the past ten years have shaped who she is today and have helped her become an expert in the filtration industry.
Why do you think it’s important to celebrate International Women’s Day?
To me, International Women’s Day is not necessarily about each of us as individuals, but rather women collectively around the world. In many countries, industries, and institutions there are still significant inequalities that need to be addressed. I think International Women’s Day reminds us to reflect on just how far women’s rights have progressed over the years while focusing on how we can continue to break the bias where inequality still exists.
This year’s theme for IWD was “Break the Bias.” What initiatives has the Walker Filtration group taken to promote gender inclusivity in the workplace?
One of the reasons I am particularly proud of working for Walker Filtration is because of its commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion for all within the company. This initiative is not exclusive to just gender. Walker Filtration works hard to embed the values of inclusion within the company culture. As with any company objective, we set yearly goals to promote diversity and inclusion initiatives while monitoring successes and identifying areas for improvement. There is a recognition of the business-critical nature of this for long-term success and employee satisfaction.
What was your first role at Walker Filtration Inc.? What is your current role and what does it entail?
I started my career at Walker Filtration within the sales department to implement a CRM system for the company. Then I rotated between the finance and sales departments for about a year and a half, but I had a marketing background. Eventually, an opportunity came to move to the marketing department as the Marketing Team Leader. From here, I was promoted to the Business Development Manager. I took a bit of a circuitous path to my current role, but embracing opportunities to rotate in different departments helped me gain a better understanding of the company.
In my current role, I oversee the Business Development and Marketing Department for the US Division of Walker Filtration. We cover the territory of the United States, Mexico, Central and South America. Our team focuses on building relationships with new and current customers and seeking out new avenues for growth.
What are some of the career challenges that you’ve had to overcome as a woman?
A significant challenge I had to overcome was learning how to become a self-promoter. When I became a manager, I noticed that many female staff members were reluctant to self-promote while many of their male counterparts were not. In staff performance reviews, male employees almost always took the opportunity to discuss successes and ask for pay increases or a promotion. Many of our female employees rarely did. Witnessing this in others caused me to reflect on myself to make a change and lead by example. If you don’t believe in yourself, it is difficult to get others to do the same. There comes a point when you need to recognize that believing in yourself and having confidence does not mean you are arrogant. Asking for what you believe you deserve is a good thing to do.
What advice would you give to women who are apprehensive about choosing a career in business or manufacturing related roles?
Regardless of existing norms, job roles should not be defined by gender. You should pursue a career that makes you happy and fulfills your personal and professional goals.
I also think it is so important that you have the right people and support system around you. I used to have a soccer coach tell the team frequently, “You cannot score a goal without a pass from someone else.” This still rings true to me in all aspects of my life and is advice I pass on to others. In my personal and professional life, having the right people around me who support, challenge and push me to be better has been instrumental to my individual and career growth.
How did COVID-19 impact you as a woman in business?
COVID-19 has impacted so many facets of our daily lives, especially for working mothers like myself. It meant less time going out for day-to-day activities and more time staying in with my family, making memories. However, working while a two-year-old and four-year-old’s schools went “virtual” brought on its own set of challenges. I feel very fortunate that I work for a company that supported its staff during this time providing flexibility so I could better balance my career and family.
Despite this, many of my industry colleagues and friends were not as well supported by their employers. My hope is as we come out the other side of the pandemic we can learn from the success and failures during this time to improve work life balance for working mothers and parents in general.