University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering


Photos: Women in Manufacturing Events Hosted at UH Engineering

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Audrey Grayson

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when women in manufacturing jobs were hard to come by. It wasn’t until World War II when, faced with a depleted workforce, American women rolled up their sleeves and went to work in factories and shipyards across the country.

It was the first time in American history that women filled a significant number of jobs in the manufacturing industry, and though we’ve come a long way since then, women still only account for 27 percent of the manufacturing workforce. Over the next decade, 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled, but 2 million of those jobs will remain unfilled due to a shortage of skilled manufacturing talent.

The Manufacturing Institute tackles this issue head-on with its annual Step Forward networking events, inviting women in manufacturing to connect with their peers, mentor female students and stay up-to-date on the latest trends and best practices in their industry. The goal of the events is to encourage, retain and advance women in the manufacturing industry.

With help from sponsors BASF, Deloitte, the Lumina Foundation and the UH Cullen College of Engineering, the Manufacturing Institute’s Step Forward events were held at the Cullen College on October 6. The theme for the event was “pay it forward,” bringing together women from different ages and backgrounds to mentor one another and share lessons learned from their personal and professional lives.

The event kicked off with an outdoor science festival tailored specifically for 65 high school girls from the Alief Independent School District. UH engineering students hosted stations for the highschoolers to get their hands dirty with engineering activities and demos. The UH engineering students guided the high school girls through building catapults out of popsicle sticks and testing out oximeters and stethoscopes on their classmates. Students also took turns touring the Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering (TAME) trailer, a mobile science museum filled with fascinating exhibits and hands-on activities, such as using a joystick to control a robotic arm to perform specific tasks.

The morning events even attracted Houston Chronicle reporter Andrea Rumbaugh, who documented the girls’ experiences in her article “Manufacturers make pitch to girls, young women.”

Afterwards, more than 75 female science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students from across the UH campus attended a networking lunch and roundtable discussion with leaders in industry.

The Manufacturing Institute will host another Step Forward networking event on February 2, 2017 at the Sam Houston Hotel in Houston. The free reception will include talks from industry leaders, networking opportunities with other manufacturers in the region and roundtable discussions that delve into workplace issues such as finding work-life balance.

For more information on the Manufacturing Institute’s Step Forward events sponsored by BASF, please visit

To view photos from the Step Forward Manufacturing Day events, please visit


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