During the celebration of Women in Manufacturing in March, we had the privilege to spend time with inspiring women working behind the scenes at Bead Electronics. Manufacturing has historically been male-dominated, with women facing several challenges in breaking through the gender barrier. However, at Bead Electronics, we have focused our efforts to build a high-performing team which has resulted in a diverse workforce.
We believe that diversity is not just about fulfilling a quota or meeting a legal requirement but also about tapping into a wider range of experiences, perspectives, and skills that enhance our company's overall performance. We are proud to have a team that includes talented and dedicated women in various roles and are committed to creating an inclusive and welcoming workplace for everyone.
In this article, we are excited to introduce you to three exceptional women who have significantly impacted our company. We are thrilled to share their stories with you and celebrate their successes at Bead Electronics.
Experience Before Coming to Bead
Clotilde Auger is a production-machine operator who has been working at Bead Electronics for 38 years. She moved to the U.S. from Portugal at age 16 and was looking for work when she found her first job in assembly.
After she had established herself as an efficient worker, she was convinced by her colleagues to join Bead Electronics and try running the machines instead. She enjoyed the newfound challenge of being a machine operator and has stayed in this position ever since then.
Bead Engineer Jess Valentino—who has been in the manufacturing industry for a year—always knew she wanted to be an engineer.
In high school, she was able to take engineering electives that helped her confidently declare her major in Industrial and System Engineering. During her college years, she completed a capstone project where she worked with Bead Electronics to help with their material handling department. This led to an internship and later, a full-time job as a Supplier Quality and Continuous Improvement Engineer.
Sara Fradette is a Production Planner with 2 years of experience in the manufacturing industry. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Economics from the University of New Haven and an MBA in Strategic Leadership.
She began her career as a Customer Service Specialist with Bead Industries and worked her way up to Production Planner, where she is responsible for day-to-day factory scheduling, material procurement, and inventory management.
Life in Manufacturing
When Auger first started at Bead, she was tasked with running the equipment and learning how to load new material into the machine in order to keep it up and running. Jim, the production manager, soon noticed her troubleshooting skills and supported her actions. This eventually led to Auger taking on more responsibility by setting up jobs in the machines.
Auger valued the senior management's belief in her, especially that of the former Bead President, Ron. He would challenge and encourage her to take on more responsibility and try different methods, demonstrating his faith in her capabilities. She is grateful for the support she has received and is happy to see that this tradition of pushing one another to do their best continues throughout the organization today.
Fradette also speaks highly of Bead Electronics’ culture of encouragement and support:
“From day one at Bead, I have been encouraged to dive into different aspects of the business. While also my direct supervisor, Bead’s President has kept me under his wing and helped me to grow in my role as a manager. Most recently, he helped me enroll in a monthly seminar for young leaders in the workplace. These seminars have already taught me so much about managing people, working in collaborative settings, and myself as a leader.”
Getting Started in Manufacturing
Valentino got her start in the industry through a scholarship from a well-known manufacturing company, which encouraged her to continue striving for success. She believes that if more big companies recognize women's achievements in manufacturing, more women will be encouraged to pursue careers in this industry.
As a woman in STEM, Valentino admits that it can be intimidating to be the only woman in the room:
“From classrooms to conference rooms, it remains the same. It isn’t easy to raise your hand or speak out against a colleague with a different view in these circumstances. As I forced myself to be more outspoken and say my ideas without regard for who was in the room, I started to feel relaxed and become more comfortable in these settings. It allowed me to find my voice very early on in the classroom and have the confidence to excel in my career today.”
She encourages other women to find their voice early on, which will help them gain the confidence to excel in their careers.
Valentino adds, “As time is evolving, you find more girls saying they want to pursue a career in STEM. This proves the industry is making the right strides in inclusivity and diversity. However, looking back, I didn’t have a STEM female role model, which made it difficult to envision my future in the field. I think it is important that the manufacturing industry represents more women inventors and STEM frontrunners to show that women can excel in this field. It is important to expose this to younger girls to show that being in this field isn’t as intimidating as they think it is and that they can do whatever they put their minds to.”
Challenges Experienced in the Industry
As in any role, challenges can be expected. From building confidence to juggling new responsibilities to embracing leadership opportunities, Fradette recounts her experience moving up through the ranks:
“As part of my promotion in 2022, I became a supervisor over an individual who had worked for Bead for over 40 years. After he retired, I took on a large portion of his responsibilities which ended up being a bigger undertaking than I had expected. Juggling my new tasks with my old ones while still working to wrap my head around all the details was challenging. I persevered and am now able to strategically manage my time to complete all my responsibilities, so much so that I am also able to take on new initiatives on top of my day-to-day tasks.”
Looking towards the future, Valentino envisions a manufacturing industry that prioritizes diversity and inclusion, with more women in leadership roles in technical and engineering positions:
“There are also several new and emerging roles that are going to become a big part of the manufacturing industry. For example, with a more pressing world focus on the environment and sustainability, I can see multiple new roles emerging where women would have a great opportunity to lead the charge in developing and implementing more sustainable manufacturing practices.”
Advice for Others Seeking Careers in Manufacturing
Auger would encourage others to follow in her footsteps. She believed that women had a unique advantage as instructors due to their patience and willingness to try something new, which allowed them to provide a more supportive learning environment. She became that support system in her current role and always encouraged her colleagues to take on challenges within the manufacturing industry even if it meant having to learn something new.
Valentino points out that a major piece in achieving a more supportive environment in manufacturing would be to increase representation:
“Highlighting the accomplishments women are making can start the decline in stereotypes or unconscious bias in hiring women for these positions and further promote the idea that success can be attainable to women in any role.”
Fradette would also encourage any woman considering a career in manufacturing to go for it:
“Though it is predominantly made up of males, there is no reason to shy away from pursuing a job in this industry. I would also tell them this: Confidence is not dependent on comfort. Walk into each room with your head held high, take up space, and speak up. You can only be made small if you allow yourself to be.”
Auger, Fradette, and Valentino's experiences and insights show that while there are still challenges for women in the industry, progress in inclusivity and diversity is being made. By encouraging and supporting our community as a whole, we can continue to innovate and evolve toward a more sustainable future.