Top women influencers in manufacturing – Part 2

Women wanting to work in manufacturing may be hesitant about the choice for a variety of reasons. To provide inspiration, we continue our series on top women in manufacturing. Read on to learn more about successful women who have carved a niche for themselves in the industry. WIM-logo-Orange-and-Grey-03.png

top women influencers in manufacturing Grace Lieblein, Director, Southwest Airlines

Grace Lieblein recently retired from General Motors after 37 years, where she served as Vice President of Global Quality. In 1978, she started her career as a co-op student for General Motors Assembly Division in Los Angeles. She was the first woman to be appointed GM Brazil President and Managing Director, Mexico, where she was responsible for operations. Lieblein received a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Kettering University in 1983 and later a master’s degree in management in materials/logistics from Michigan State University in 1988. She made Automotive News’ list of 100 Leading Women in the North American auto industry three times over. She was featured on Fortune magazine’s list of the 10 Most Powerful Women in Automotive in 2013. Lieblein was also recognized by Great Minds in STEM as Engineer of the Year 2014. She is currently on the Board of Directors of Southwest Airlines.


Denise Johnson, Group President, Caterpillar

Denise Johnson graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Michigan State University in 1989. Johnson also holds dual master’s degrees in mechanical engineering and business administration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She joined Caterpillar in 2011 as the General Manager for the Specialty Products Business Unit where she managed 20 facilities worldwide. In 2012, the Caterpillar Board of Directors named her Vice President, where she was responsible for their Material Handling & Underground Division. In January 2016, Johnson was appointed as Group President of Resources Industries. Prior to Caterpillar, Johnson worked with General Motors for 22 years, in departments such as Product Engineering, Manufacturing Operations, and Product Management. She currently presides on a number of outside boards including MIT Leaders for Global Operations Governing Board and The Mosaic Company.


Katie Davis, Director of Engineering at Ingersoll Rand

Katie Davis holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Mercer University in Georgia, where Davis gained both the theoretical knowledge and practical experience in building parts and prototypes. She launched her career in engineering design for Bechtel, where an initial five year assignment resulted in her becoming a licensed professional engineer (PE). Davis then joined the U.S. Air Force, where she was involved in the design and construction of ground support equipment for the USAF fleet. Both these opportunities developed her interest in the manufacturing industry. Davis joined Ingersoll Rand in 2007, and has worked in all areas of the manufacturing business, from engineering design and strategy development to information technology and quality.


Veronica Messersmith, Vice President of Sales at Sandvik Coromant

Veronica Messersmith received an education in industrial engineering and earned an MBA in Business Administration Management in 2003 from Texas A&M University. She served as Project Engineer at Hi-Port Industries, later joining Sandvik Coromant in 1998 as a manager (plant admin and production control), moving on to become Director of Sales in 2006. Presently, Messersmith is responsible for sales covering 27 states. She was honored by The Manufacturing Institute with a Women in Manufacturing STEP Award in 2015 for excellence and leadership in her manufacturing career.


MaryAnn Wright, VP of Engineering & Product Development at Johnson Controls

MaryAnn Wright holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics and International Business and a Master of Science degree in Engineering, both from the University of Michigan, and a Master of Business Administration degree from Wayne State University. Wright has been in the automotive industry since 1988, starting her career with Ford, holding a variety of positions in finance, product, and business planning, and engineering. She was a director of Sustainable Mobility Technologies and Hybrid Vehicle Programs at Ford Motor Company when she left to join Collins & Aikman Corporation, serving as Executive Vice President of Engineering, Product Development, Commercial, and Program Management. She joined Johnson Controls, a multinational organization producing automotive parts in 2007. Wright served on the Board of Directors for the Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) and currently serves on the Executive Board of the Greater Milwaukee, WI YMCA. In 2015, she was recognized by Automotive News’ list of 100 Leading Women in the North American automotive industry. Compiled every five years, this award celebrates leaders with significant influence in the industry.

With such influential role models to look up to, the future for women with an interest in science, engineering, and technology looks bright. These are just a few great examples of women to look up to. There are many other women working in the manufacturing sector. Learning about their careers will help increase an interest in STEM for women to take up more jobs in manufacturing, helping close the much-debated gender gap.

Have inspiring women at your workplace too? Share their stories with us, we will feature them in this series.



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