WHILE WOMEN REPRESENT NEARLY HALF OF THE U.S. LABOR force, they account for just 27% of the manufacturing workforce.
Holding a unique spot in the industry as an executive with more than 20 years of leadership experience, Gena C. Lovett found her love for manufacturing early in her career at Ford Motor Co. After 15 years with Ford, the Cleveland-native joined Alcoa as director of manufacturing before transitioning into the role of chief diversity officer.
Now, as vice president of operations for Boeing's Defense, Space & Security business, Lovett has worked her way to the top of an industry where very few women are present. Joining the aerospace company in August 2015, she is responsible for the production of all fixed-wing tactical aircraft, tankers, transport aircraft, rotorcraft, satellites, and weapon systems, and is deputy leader of the Boeing Operations Leadership Team (BOLT).
Serving as an executive for a company with $96.1 billion in revenues in 2015 and with 53,000 employees, the Ohio State alum opens up about her role as a leading woman in manufacturing.
In your current role, you set the strategic direction for thousands of employees. How do you accomplish that?
I cannot manage from this office. What really appeals to me is the ability to be able to go out and touch a lot of people. So while I may not have hands-on management of almost 50,000 people, the influence and being able to touch them [through] messaging and them seeing me or talking to me is very important. I also like having roundtables when I visit our sites. I'm very interested in our employees. The thing I have learned over the years is that it's really about our people. I know that is something that has been said before, but I'm actually someone who lives it. When you are in an environment where you have to really make change, that's where you go because at the end of the day it's the people--and we have people who rock.
As a female leader, how do you balance that fine line between showing you care for your employees without being perceived as too soft?
When I first came into the business, there were not a lot of female role models and the ones that were there didn't have pictures of their children or loved ones or anything that would identify them as someone with a soft side. What I figured out some time ago, is that it just takes too much energy...