It would seem that the “STEP Ahead” Award that I got last week, along with 129 other amazing women, would have something to do with making shoes. Well, it does, but not in the way that you think. STEP stands for “Science, Technology, Engineering and Production” and last week, we were each awarded the 2016 STEP Ahead Award from the Manufacturing Institute in Washington DC. Over a two day celebration we were wined, dined, congratulated and thanked for all the science, technology, engineering, and production awesomeness that we do on a daily basis. Congress people told us how essential we are to the U.S. economy, creating wealth and community and serving as role models for young women and girls to pursue STEM and manufacturing careers. Many of us mentor young women in one way or another. In fact, it was a former mentee of mine, Grace Lefebure who nominated me for the award. Grace was the only woman in her mechanical engineering capstone class with me at OESH a number of years ago. She is now a hotshot engineer making airplane parts for Boeing in Seattle, who won the STEP Ahead Award last year. Thank you Grace!
While I was the only honoree from the shoe industry, there were women from just about every other industry sector, all manufacturing one thing or another right here in the United States. We had much fun talking about injection molding and how to get grease off your clothes (you can’t, which is why you have to wear mostly black). We also talked a lot about coding and 3D printing. Everyone loved my hot pink 3D printed Athena Sandals!
Before we parted, we each had to make a personal commitment as to how we would encourage more girls and women to pursue STEM and manufacturing careers. I promised that I will continue to host factory tours for students. The girls who come through the OESH factory are especially excited to see how we can make shoes using coding and 3D printing. There are very few shoe designers who are women and there are even fewer women who actually manufacture shoes. When girls see what we do here at OESH they can’t help but be inspired to roll up their sleeves and learn some code!