Women: Become mill managers!

Companies want more women working in plant operations. But it's a hard sell.

Published May 1, 2006 9:09PM (EDT)

Company recruiters are looking for more operations executives like Lynda McCarty. She joined Georgia-Pacific Corp. in 1984 as a shipping clerk in Bay Springs, Miss., but later was transferred to another mill, where she became the first female manager. "People in the community were like, 'What's she doing?'" McCarty tells the Wall Street Journal in a story today on why so few women run plants.

It wasn't easy, especially as she worked long days to win employees respect, even while pregnant -- and "demonstrated her backbone by curbing some workers' 'filthy mouths,'" writes Erin White. Ultimately she increased the plant's output and profitability. But when the company offered her another promotion, she turned it down, saying that she wanted to spend more time with her daughter.

As women climb the managerial ranks in various industries, companies are noticing that female operations managers remain scarce. They're deterred by small-town locations and their lack of engineering degrees. They may be daunted by having to be "pioneers" of sorts, since they often must supervise men who aren't used to having female bosses. And while Georgia-Pacific can tempt the best with on-site day care and flexible work schedules at its Atlanta headquarters, it has a hard time matching those benefits in remote posts.

"There is no on-site day care at any mill. Shift work and the 24-hour nature of mill operations limit flexible-scheduling options. Women managers from the mills weren't invited to the leadership-forum meetings until last year," writes White.

These factors mean that women hold only eight managerial jobs in Georgia-Pacific's 200 plants. Let's hear it for more attractive recruitment packages that meet female managers' needs. In the meantime, for those women "pioneers," we at Broadsheet tip our hard hats to you!

By Sarah Elizabeth Richards

Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist based in New York. She can be reached at sarah@saraherichards.com.

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