The sky’s the limit

1 March 2021


International Women's Day on March, 8, 2021, is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Jenny Eagle speaks to six women celebrating their achievements in the Hoist industry encouraging others to join the industry

By Jenny Eagle

CMAA scholarship student
Dana Emswiler won
the Crane Manufacturers Association of America (CMAA) Honor Scholarship 2020-2021. The 22-year-old is studying Industrial Engineering with a focus on Supply Chain Management at the University of Pittsburgh. She also belongs to the Society of Women Engineers and has completed internships at UPS and Lutron Electronics and after her degree she plans to enter the material handling workforce.

“?Although International Women's Day is especially meaningful for those of us pursuing careers in a male dominated industry, for me, it has always been about advocating women in engineering every day to both empower my peers and inspire the next generation of women to achieve their professional goals,” she said.

?“I am so honoured to be selected for a scholarship through the Material Handling Education Foundation (MHEFI), which required an application with multiple short essay prompts along with a nomination/recommendation from professors. It means a lot to me have a strong industry organization supporting my academic and personal endeavours.

“After completing my senior year at Pitt, I will start my career at Eaton, a global power management company, in their Operations for Engineers Leadership Development Program which is a three-year rotational program where I will work in various sites and functions throughout the US before rolling off into a more permanent role.

“I am excited to launch my industrial engineering career at Eaton but I will be keeping the function and position flexible as I rotate roles over the next three years to stay agile and adaptable to the current business needs. Beyond IE, I am pursuing a certificate in supply chain management, concentrating in health systems engineering. I am passionate about enhancing the health, safety, and wellness of workers and consumers.”

LEEA CEO Award winner
Ella Cheetham,
MD, Lifting Gear Products (LGP) and LEEA CEO Award 2019 winner for Outstanding Achievement, was 18 years old when she was asked to be divisional manager of LGP. Her father, Paul Cheetham, owns Europa Engineering Group, (of which LGP is a subsidiary) and she declined university to focus on the company which had seen an unexpected decline in its customer base vowing to give it 110% to get the company where it needed to be. The Sheffield, UK-based company specialises in the design, manufacture, repair and supply of mechanical handling and lifting equipment. Cheetham is also MD at PlumAlti, Altrincham (British manufacturers of polyester lifting and lashing products up to and over 75 tonne Safe Working Load).

 “As a 21-year-old woman in manufacturing, I would like to think I challenge the status quo and can bring my own flare of eccentricity and diverse thinking to the industry. This is backed by my determination to succeed and the raw “toughness” I have fostered in a sink or swim environment. In my eyes the fact the industry is male dominated is an advantage to me, and there is plenty of opportunity as women do not sit within the norm, which enables us to stand out and make a difference,” she said. 

“My advice to women within the industry is to never perceive themselves as lesser, just because we are a minority. If you shout loud enough, someone will always hear you. We need to work together to bring more women into the industry to rebalance the gender gap. There is opportunity everywhere, we just need more women finding confidence to grasp these opportunities and to represent our genders capabilities in greater force.  

“Transformation and growth are the most rewarding and best parts of my role. I live and breathe the model of taking something and making it into something more, to phoenix something to former or new glory. To create and incubate from concept to reality and making something that can withstand the test of time for the future. Manufacturing and industry is the bi-product of human capability, it is a legacy and tangible product that outlives all, it is something that is timeless. There is nothing, in my opinion, that is better than knowing your products are used all over the world, by a myriad of consumers in varying industries and that they (our products) will be around for 100s of years.”

CMCO head of development
Allyson Wu is the senior engineering manager in charge of development at Columbus McKinnon (CMCO) in the Crane Solutions Group. Head of lifting and smart motion control technology, she leads and manages an engineering team that designs and develops industrial controls and drives used in Material Handling, Elevator, Mobile Hydraulic, Mining product and Automation systems. The team consists of electrical engineers, software engineers, mechanical engineers and lab technicians, working together to deliver each project from concept to market.

“CMCO is the fifth company I have worked for in my engineering career, following Siemens, Spacelabs Healthcare, Eaton and Caterpillar. Most of my colleagues are male engineers. They are smart, direct, honest and easy to work with. After 30-plus years’ experience, I don’t remember ever having a difficult situation due to a male dominated working environment,” she said.

“I always tell high school students as long as you love engineering, go ahead and pursue your dream, follow your heart. You will fail at times, but in the end, constantly learning, you will be a success. Never think of yourself as a girl when you are at work. In my first job, at Siemens, I told myself, no matter what, I will work with confidence in front of my colleagues and not cry if things went wrong. Loving your job and building your confidence taught me never to be afraid of failure. I hope we will see more women engineers, more female leaders, and managers and technical specialists in engineering fields.       

“Education has proven its worth in my career. I had five years earning my Bachelor degree in Electrical Engineering, three years for my Masters’ degree in Biomedical engineering, and two years for my Master’s degree in Computer Science. This sounds like a lot but it will build your solid engineering foundation. My role as senior engineering manager and technical background allows me to better lead my team and understand project design issues in both electrical hardware engineering and software engineering, which are very different technical fields. We see many software engineering jobs nowadays and we will see even more in the future. It is fun controlling hoist and motion products and creating new systems to improve customers industrial operations.”

President ACECO
Karen Norheim
is the president and COO of American Crane & Equipment Corporation (ACECO) in Douglassville, Pennsylvania, which designs and manufactures overhead cranes, hoists and other material handling equipment. Responsibilities include planning sales and marketing activities to evaluating a business process for efficiency and cost savings, working on the shop floor to reviewing financials or meeting with management.

“Through my work with ACECO, I found my passion for manufacturing. Where else can you bring something from concept to physical existence. I get to help solve complex problems that have a real impact for our customers,” she said.

“I have had several mentors during the course of my career who have been integral to my success, including my father. They have been incredible in helping me to find my way. I am very grateful to have them in my life. I continue to do the same, to strive to be a mentor, helping others through the lessons I have learned.

“Too often, women are not aware of the opportunities available in manufacturing. But there is significant overlap between what women want in careers and the attributes of careers in manufacturing today. To those wanting to enter our field, there is exciting work to be done and a path that still needs paving for future generations of women. The best part of my job is all the amazing people I get to work with, including my father. They are the key to our success.”

Intelligent Lifting Devices Gorbel
Pooja Sinha
is the product marketing manager fo, Intelligent Lift Devices; G-Force, Easy Arm and Tether Track at Gorbel. She creates the marketing plan for these product lines and heads up the marketing team in creating the user and dealer channel facing collateral, assisting with sales training and materials that help in the field and collects and shares market feedback with the engineering team for current and future product enhancements.  

“I have been with Gorbel for a few years however I was working with the medical device side of the business until the summer of 2019. This is an entirely different industry than the medical device world and for the first time, I am working closely with an all-male sales team and a mostly male engineering team. I am treated with nothing but the utmost respect. Everyone I have worked with or interacted with in my short time in this business has been incredibly helpful and vital to my learning the business, channels, and products. That being said, my exposure to this industry has been primarily within the walls of Gorbel because we haven’t been able to attend tradeshows or do many site visits due to Covid. In speaking with my female colleagues I have been told I can expect the same professionalism as I venture out into the industry itself,” she said.

“If working in this industry interests you don’t be intimidated by the lack of female representation. Learn the areas you find interesting, there are a plethora of resources out there including industry podcasts, product or business line articles/forums, industry publications and new job opportunities.

“The best thing about my job is being in an industry where we are designing and offering products that improve people's lives and make their jobs easier. Our products, take the heavy lifting out of repetitive motions tasks. Our products allow someone from a factory to go home without back pain so they can play with their children.

Also, my role in particular touches many different departments within the company. I love that I can be a part of a conversation, guiding marketing materials with the marketing team one day, the engineering department and product development and sales training another day. The cross-functionality of my job is one of the things I enjoy the most.”

Konecranes Industrial Equipment
Carolin Paulus, is the executive VP and head of Konecranes’ Industrial Equipment business, and a member of the company’s Leadership Team. Industrial Equipment is one of Konecranes’ three business areas; in 2020 it had sales of €1.1bn and around 5,700 employees globally.

“I have family roots within the legacy Demag part of Konecranes’ business, so this is an industry that has meant a lot to me personally. In that sense, I have not looked at it only from a “male dominated” perspective. My focus has always been on the people I work with, not the gender. I especially enjoy the contact with international customers and the technology – these sorts of things are exciting and interesting for me,” she said.

“This said, diversity in the workplace directly influences the way we work and collaborate, and this has started to change for the better in the last couple of years, certainly in Konecranes. Internal discussions about diversity and inclusion dominate the work culture here, and we are in the process of outlining – very actively – how this can further our business success. We have a dedicated diversity and inclusion officer who is doing this. When I started to work in the industry in the late 1980s, the preconditions for a woman’s successful career were far narrower and in many areas of work much harder than today. There was a lot of female potential we did not attract or use to its fullest. We still have a way to go, but we are taking the next steps and seeing how it benefits us as a company. Diversity is a proven success factor, and Konecranes aims to be a leader in this field.

Her advice to others is to choose an industry where you are interested in the core products, processes, and services, and the salary levels are good; “Traditionally women haven't considered salary a decisive factor in their job choices. Our industry has a lot of change going on as we shift from individual products and services to a broader “material flow” focus, so we need diverse teams who create, support, and enjoy change. One area where it would help to have more women is in sales and technical functions: these are areas where we are very focused on finding innovative solutions for our customers.

“The best thing about this job is not one thing, it’s the whole package: the people, the products and solutions, the interaction with customers, the challenges we face in a fast-changing world. Even after decades in the industry, I can still say it’s a lot of fun.”

Dana Emswiler
Karen Norheim
Ella Cheetham
Pooja Sinha
Allyson Wu
Carolin Paulus