By Stephanie Neil, editor, OEM
As the vice president of the large power systems division at Caterpillar, a maker of industrial equipment and engines, Tana Utley knows a thing or two about being a woman—and a leader—in the male-dominated industry of manufacturing and heavy equipment. She started her career at Caterpillar 31 years ago as a young engineer and built a reputation for herself as someone who gets the job done, as she’s successfully worked to bring diesel engine emissions down dramatically.
She’s also a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a runner and now a role model to the 500 plus women (and men) who attended the Packaging & Processing Women’s Leadership Network (PPWLN) breakfast at PACK EXPO in Las Vegas this week, where Utley gave the keynote speech. The breakfast was part of PPWLN's ongoing efforts to address the gender gap in the manufacturing workforce by attracting, developing, retaining and advancing women in packaging and processing. And Utley’s presentation, titled “Dancing on the Glass Ceiling,” highlighted her own experiences and strategies for success, which include giving back.
During her presentation, Utley offered attendees a peek into her personal life. Over the weekend, for example, she took care of the dog walks, ran errands, cut down tree limbs in the yard and prepared family meals. Oh, she also had to balance a big corporate budget before getting on a plane Monday morning to fly to Las Vegas.
“After thirty-one years at a company, even at the pinnacle of my career, I am dancing backwards in my heels, just like you are,” Utley said, referencing the theme of her talk, which was a nod to Ginger Rogers. “I’m doing the same thing a man does every day, and then some.”
Why? Because she feels that she’s making a difference. “I’m on a good mission. And you are, too,” Utley said. “I enjoy being a leader at a company and being the kind of vice president people want to work for. I want to leave a legacy for the people at Caterpillar, as we are building a better world.”
She also stressed that women must be on a mission in their personal lives, as well, in order to create an environment in which the younger generation appreciates that a good job in manufacturing can create tremendous value in life. Earning a nice paycheck for your family means that your children lead a better life through education, healthcare and, yes, even nice vacations. But that must be communicated and portrayed to the younger generation, she said. “Many of us talk about how under represented we are in STEM. And the idea of education is to get a better job. And STEM jobs are great!”
Her main message to the audience was that together we need to do a better job of representing the opportunities in engineering, manufacturing and packaging and processing. And, as individuals, we need to take the steps to further our personal mission, whatever that may be.
To do that, Utley offered seven “dance steps” women can learn in order to dance on their own glass ceiling:
Utley closed by asking everyone to think about what their personal mission is. What does your glass ceiling look like and how do you feel to dance there? “It is why you work outside the home and why you work in this field.” Read original article here.