AWMI Promotes Change, Growth, Diversity

Written by Sandy Williams

Change and growth, both personal and professional, were the dominant topics at the 2019 Annual Conference of the Association of Women in the Metal Industries, held in San Antonio Nov. 6-9. Beginning with a workshop by Asbury Group CEO Kailei Carr—”Unveil Your Most Powerful Self”—and ending with Anne Phelon, CEO at Merrett Davies International—”Moving from Personal Growth to Team/Business Growth”—the conference was one of introspection, enlightenment and inspiration.

Fearing Change

Thursday keynote speaker Todd Williams, General Manager Body Operations at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, reflected on how to turn adversity and fear of change into renewed confidence and growth.

People often fear change in their personal and professional lives. Facing restructuring at work or introduction of new technology and processes can create anxiety, resentment and discomfort. Counter fear by seeking accurate information, learn how the change will affect you, and keep an open mind, suggested Williams. Gaining understanding about the change will allow you to approach it pragmatically, gain confidence and find satisfaction as you successfully integrate the change into your work or personal life.

A presentation on Digitization in the Steel Industry by Tim Milde, COO, XOM Materials, built upon the difficulty of getting individuals and companies to accept change. XOM Materials, founded in Berlin in 2017, offers an online platform for buying and selling materials such as steel, metals and plastics. The U.S. and Europe are lagging behind China, Russia and Asia in utilizing e-platforms, said Milde. Steel mills in China and Russia have invested in IT for years with efficient systems that provide results at a push of a button. Not so in the U.S. and EU, where inquiries may take a day to research and locate results.

Today’s supply chain is highly inefficient, workflow is complex and errors are frequent, said Milde. In addition, costs are high and resources are wasted. Digitization frees up time that can be better spent developing relationships with clients.

Changing the company mindset from traditional to digital platforms can be challenging and will require allaying concern and fears as well as standardizing products in the steel industry. Developing a digital strategy may necessitate new skills for personnel and a shift in management that aligns with technological change. Beyond making your company more efficient, investing in technology will attract, and help retain, a younger generation to the industry, he said.

Inclusion and Diversity

A panel on Diversity and Inclusion provided insights on how to foster an environment that includes both racial and gender inclusivity. Panelists Paulina Johnson, automotive account manager at ArcelorMittal, and Sonya Wilson, senior global human resources manager at Arconic, stressed the need for mentoring and leading by example to change group think and encourage diversity and growth of women and minorities in the workplace.

Employees need a champion, said Johnson, it doesn’t matter what race or gender. Leaders are looked up to and set an example for employees. Be mentored and be a mentor, said both panelists. Many companies offer formal or informal mentoring programs. If not, start one; ask someone to be your mentor or offer your own experience to help lift up other colleagues. Offer honest advice and support. Look to outside organizations for additional support and to gain confidence.

“Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance,” said Wilson. When hiring someone from a selection of candidates, and all qualifications are equal, choose diversity instead of the person that is like you. Diversity brings new ideas and values into workplace culture and decisions.

“It doesn’t help to invite someone to participate and give ideas if you don’t execute those ideas because they are outside of the group think,” said Wilson. “Inclusion to me is that even when I don’t feel comfortable, I implement that idea.”  

Johnson added that if you face sexist or racist remarks, get over it, and look for ways to enlighten and inform. “Don’t own someone else’s junk. Dismiss it as their ignorance and keep moving forward.”

Women often don’t express themselves from fear of rejection. As a mentor, recommend that they speak up and help them to understand and overcome their insecurities. Women need to market themselves so that when opportunities are available, they are noticed. Johnson suggested, “Put yourself out there and do something different than the workplace.” Not only will it help with personal growth and visibility, it is a way to introduce your company and industry to others.

For those not familiar with AWMI the organization currently has 57 corporate sponsors and chapters within five U.S. regions and Canada. AWMI is an international, professional organization dedicated to promoting and supporting the advancement of women in the metal industries. AWMI offers programs and activities to enhance members’ skills and experience, address challenges confronting the industry, and promote members’ career growth with the ultimate goal of increasing the number of women employed in the metal industries. Membership is open to both women and men who are seeking to develop all aspects of their professional development and career advancement.

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