Manufacturing isn’t well-known for its gender representation. Whereas women make up about 47 percent of the United States’ entire labor force, women make up only 29 percent of the manufacturing industry’s personnel.
Despite this gap, women have made an enormous impact on the manufacturing industry, and a select few rose to pave the way for other women in the industry.
1. Margaret Knight
A renowned inventor of the late 19th and early 20th century who changed the face of the textile manufacturing industry, Margaret Knight is also referred to by her nickname: “Lady Edison.” After witnessing an accident at a New Hampshire textile mill attributed to faulty equipment, Knight started her inventing career by creating a safety device for textile looms. Shortly afterward, in 1871, she received her first patent for a machine that cut, folded and glued paper bags for grocery stores.
By the end of her career, she had registered 12 patents — including a shoe sole cutting machine, rotary engine, combustion engine and the reel.
2. Madam C.J. Walker
Born with the name Sarah Breedlove, Madam C.J. Walker was one of the first women to become a self-made millionaire. Beginning in 1910 with the establishment of her manufacturing company, Walker built her fortune manufacturing hair care products specialized for African-American hair.
Her manufacturing business, including her factory, hair salon, beauty school and laboratory, employed thousands of women and showed them how to become financially independent and even build their own businesses. Today she stands as a shining example to women in the manufacturing industry.
3. Stephanie Kwolek
Stephanie Kwolek is another great inventor — one responsible for the invention of Kevlar, which is used for construction materials, protective wear and sports equipment. Fascinated with fibers and textiles from a young age, Kwolek was working at chemical company DuPont to save for medical school when her interest was caught by the firm’s research into synthetic fibers. She ended up staying with DuPont, studying how to turn polymers into synthetic fibers — specifically focusing on fibers that interlocked into close-knit rows.
Eventually, she developed a way to create a fiber with the strength of steel, which became known as Kevlar.
Honorable Mention: Rosie the Riveter
Though fictional, Rosie the Riveter is one of the most iconic pieces of Americana and is possibly the most recognized image associated with the manufacturing industry. Rosie the Riveter started out as a representation of women working in American factories during World War II. These jobs, traditionally held by men, were left vacant during the war, causing shortages in supply.
To encourage women to pick up the work, Rosie was born. Over time, however, she became a symbol of empowerment for the female riveters, and her image has lasted to this day as a symbol of female power and the American work ethic.
Repair Services for the Manufacturing Industry
Women have paved the way for the modern manufacturing industry, and women will continue to make great strides in the name of progress. Keep your business’ progress going strong with an industrial repair service you can trust.