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Omaha Event Honors Women in Manufacturing Careers

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Written by Michelle Stolte |

On September 21, a “STEP Forward” event at Metropolitan Community College’s Fort Omaha Campus recognized the contributions of 60 women in manufacturing and related “STEP” careers (Science, Technology, Engineering, Production) in Nebraska and western Iowa. Co-chairs were Jane Miller, chief operating officer at Gallup, and Diane Duren, retired executive VP and chief administrative officer at Union Pacific Railroad. The mission of “STEP Forward” is to both honor women who have made significant contributions to their manufacturing organizations and to encourage more women to consider careers in manufacturing. One of the featured speakers at the event was Vanessa Brown, senior vice president of Human Resources at Valmont®.


Left to Right: Michelle Stolte, Ashley Anderson, Nicole Volpi, Summer Mau

I was fortunate enough to be named as an honoree, and I would like to recognize my colleagues at Valmont who were also selected as honorees:

  • Ashley Anderson – product manager, Irrigation
  • Tami Cerny – production manager, Tubing
  • Barbara Cunningham – project engineer, Utility
  • Summer Mau – VSOC/configuration management supervisor, Irrigation
  • Laura Rathe – project engineer, Utility
  • Nicole Volpi – aftermarket analyst, Irrigation

Why is it necessary to encourage more women to enter STEP careers? Consider these statistics:

  • Currently, women hold only 27% of all manufacturing positions throughout the United States, whether in the office, on the shop floor, or elsewhere. At Valmont, only 13.5% of the workforce is female.
  • In the next decade, there will be 3.5 million manufacturing jobs to fill. At our current pace of recruitment, experts predict that 2 million of these jobs will go unfilled.

I’ve written before about the important roles played by women in agriculture, and I feel just as strongly about the contributions of women in manufacturing. Manufacturing may not seem like a glamorous career, but it IS rewarding. I gain so much pride from seeing finished Valmont products in the fields and alongside roadways throughout the country. I feel lucky to work for a company that manufactures products that feed the world, light the world, and keep the world connected. How cool is that?

Nicole Volpi, a Valmont honoree, offers the following comments:

I have worked in manufacturing for 8½ years and have seen the impact of our team’s contributions in the economy. I have held positions in procurement, research and development, warranties, and analysis. These opportunities have allowed me variety, whether I was working on new formulations for pet food, managing a new product release, networking and building relationships with vendors, clients, and customers, or heading out to a center pivot irrigation system to analyze a product issue. Each role expands my knowledge base and opens up more opportunities for professional growth. It is important for opportunities in manufacturing to be available to everyone — men and women alike. I am excited about my future in manufacturing and look forward to advocating for this industry.

Like Nicole, I am happy to advocate for women to enter the field of manufacturing. If you join us, you, too, can enjoy the pride that comes from helping to produce goods that improve other people’s lives.  Give manufacturing a try and do your part to improve the stats listed above. I doubt you will be disappointed!

For current job openings at Valmont, please visit

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