Then & Now: Women in the Workplace

by Paige Knorek.

Welcome to the fourth installment of Women in the Workplace Series. If you’d like to read the previous articles, check out the links below!

Interview with Pat Thoen

Interview with Becky Iverson

Interview with Therese Jakes

Did you know that just over 11% of all Douglas Machine employees are female?

As the newest employee contributing to that 11% statistic at Douglas Machine, I was surprised with the opportunity to write an article on the topic “Douglas – Then & Now.” I’m still learning about Douglas now, in addition to the rich history of Douglas over the years! After considering the possibilities, however, I decided to narrow my focus to a topic I was truly curious about: the women who have been employed at Douglas since the company was first established in 1964.

In order to get a credible perspective on this topic, I interviewed seven women, including one retiree and six current employees. Their work spans every decade of Douglas’s existence—and therefore provides insight into the experiences of women in the workplace over time, the variety of work that women have contributed to Douglas, and their advice for women who are interested in working in a similar industry.

Interview with Jackie Caron

1. How long have you worked at Douglas, and in what position/s?

JACKIE: I started in 1991, so I have worked at Douglas for 27 years; Sales Administrative Assistant, Marketing Services Manager, Marketing Communications and Training Manager, R+D Services Manager, Technical Services Parts Supervisor, Replacement Parts Manager.

2. What drew you to this line of work? What specifically brought you to Douglas?

JACKIE: Microsoft Word and Excel were just coming out so I went to school to learn those programs. I was looking for a job that would allow me to grow. I need something challenging — if I don’t, I get bored. What drew me to the work I do now was the variety, the constant training, and the possibility of opportunities. When I started, the company was small enough so I could do lots of different things. It took five interviews before they finally hired me!

3. In a nutshell, what do you do?

JACKIE: I’m responsible for the replacement parts for Douglas Machine core machines and I have a wonderful team that gets it all done.

4. Were you married and/or were you raising a family when you started working at Douglas?

JACKIE: Married, yes. While I was working at Douglas Machine, we were blessed with the adoption of our daughter in 2002.

5. Was it usual for women to be working at the time when you started? Did many of your friends and female peers work?

JACKIE: Yes, they worked. That’s kind of when that transition was happening [it was becoming more common for women to work].

6. How many of the people on your team are also female? What is that like?

JACKIE: I have two people on my team that are female and I enjoy the input from them. They provide a different point-of-view. It’s good to have the women on my team to bounce ideas off of. It’s nice to have that additional variety because women do think differently.

7. In your opinion, how has the role of women in the workplace changed over time?Why do you think those changes have occurred?

JACKIE: I think that the amount of responsibility given to women has changed. When I started, there were no women in leadership roles. Even in other industries I worked in, women were in support roles, not leadership roles. Now more women are working in leadership roles. Over the years, it has been a struggle to be in a leadership role and have people actually listen to what I have to say. That is constantly evolving. I think media has had a big impact on change. I think women getting appropriate training and education on how to function in a male-dominated environment has also had an impact. I have had mentors, both men and women, who have provided support. In this company, it has been men who have recognized my abilities and been open to growth opportunities for me and other women. Society has changed, so men are looking at women differently. Women can do more than be in a support role, and we can bring value to the conversation. That openness is so important in an industry such as manufacturing.

8. If you were to guess, what percentage of Douglas employees today do you think are women?

JACKIE: 10% or 15%.

9. What advice would you give women who are considering working in this industry?

JACKIE: Keep the emotion out of it and present the facts. Remain positive and do the right thing. Seeking first to understand is huge. Once you have that, it’s important to be able to logically engage in a discussion. The last thing is to laugh and have fun. It can be very stressful if you don’t.

10. Do you have any other comments you would like to share?

JACKIE: It’s been a good journey overall. I’ve grown personally and professionally, and I’ve seen those around me grow. I hope that can continue.

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