Evelyn K. Ishmael reflects on RMI’s “Women in NextGen Manufacturing & Engineering” event

Evelyn K. Ishamel

Evelyn K. Ishamel

By Evelyn K. Ishmael, “Call Me Ishmael” Writing

Men may be from Mars and women from Venus, but we were all on the same planet for RMI’s “Women in NextGen Manufacturing & Engineering” event. The camaraderie of the morning started with coffee and Danishes at the National Electronics Museum. The spaciousness of the museum allowed us to easily meet and greet. For almost an hour, old friends connected and new friends exchanged business cards.

Participants and their roles in the morning’s program were:

  • Laura Neuman, Anne Arundel County Executive welcomed us…
  • Silvia Bouchard, Director, Mission Assurance, Northrop Grumman Electronics Systems, introduced participants and served as moderator …
  • Gloria A. Flach, Corporate Vice President & President, Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems, was keynote speaker….

Panelists who discussed their professional responsibilities and insights were:

  • Susan (Suzy) Ganz, CEO & Chair, Lion Brothers
  • Nichole Hickson-Oliver, Personnel Director, GM Baltimore Operations
  • Jenny Regan, CEO, Key Tech
  • Mary Kay Burch, Vice President CINS, Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems

To set an inclusive tone, Ms. Neuman let the working mothers in the audience know that she was one of us. She shared that her son was home sick and that she had driven her daughter to school that morning.

In the first round, Ms. Flach and the panelists talked about their leadership style. Each had her own perspective on leadership, but surprisingly, as a whole, they didn’t speak about their product, obstacles or a glass ceiling. Instead, all spoke about the importance of the people who work for and with them. Each had a key takeaway or main point regarding leadership: Flach highlighted value differences, Ganz spoke on creating opportunity for others,  Hickson-Oliver talked about the importance of giving and accepting feedback, Regan discussed service and collaboration, and  Burch stressed the importance of inclusion.

Questions and answers for the panel from the general audience filled more than an hour. All panelists answered the questions; each had her own slant, but they all agreed on a core response.  Of the many questions, one was about attracting more young women to STEM careers  (and getting them early, even in middle school).  Another question was straight out of a controversy among women… the issue of bossiness… (Sometimes, we have to be more assertive than comfortable to stick up for what we believe.)  A third question asked how the panel members respond to setbacks . (The setback isn’t as important as how we deal with it.) A related question was about success. (Go beyond our comfort zone.)

Of course, no RMI event is complete without Mike Galiazzo’s presence. As he ended the Q&A’s, Mike acknowledged, by name, women on the panel and in the audience who had helped him in his career. Then, going one step further, he “called out” the men in the audience to reach out to women and to value their input.

Panelist Hickson-Oliver shared that her grandmother advised her in times of conflict or setbacks to, “Give yourself a little grace.”  Building on that idea, during the Women in NextGen Manufacturing and Engineering event, men and women stood together on the planet called Grace.

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