The role of women in manufacturing is often depicted by Rosie the Riveter, the iconic symbol of women who took to the factories to replace enlisted men during World War II.
Though technology in today’s industry has evolved, lack of workers to fill the gaps in the manufacturing workforce remains. Recent studies demonstrate how women could again be the answer to that critical need.
Roxanne Shurtz, CNC supervisor at Kurt J. Lesker Company, an NCC Partner company, has championed that point of view during her 30+ year machining career in the North Huntingdon area.
Seeking her first job back in 1989, she landed by accident at a small factory making windows. Her interest was piqued by the process and her problem solving skills gave her confidence to give it a try. Using manual machines early in her career helped Roxanne understand process, efficiency and productivity. She learned carbide polishing and finishing and worked on the automatic mechanism for automobile airbags. Another project was the Mustang Cobra head. When a coworker told her to “figure it out,” she did!
Since then, she has held positions of increasing responsibility at a number of local companies -- machinist, CNC operator, supervisor and manufacturing engineer among them. She currently supervises 15 men – ages 20-50s. Her resume demonstrates the versatility of manufacturing careers. At one time she handled customer inventory management and even designed and setup a new production area in one of her employer’s buildings. Once NIMS credentials were introduced in the 1990s, she enrolled in programs that honed those skills.
Roxanne attributes her success to her determination to learn on the job, ask questions and take on challenging projects. “It helps to have a thick skin,” she notes. “You have to prove yourself in an industry still skewing to male workers.” But, she adds, it is much more respectful today.
Just as the slogan on the Rosie the Riveter posters proclaimed, Roxanne believes “we can do it!”