Dawn Swindle is the Internal Communications Lead for Corporate Communications in North America. She is working to build an internal communications network that spans all divisions throughout the region.
International Women’s Day is a day to reflect and celebrate the achievements of women. This year, the theme for the March 8 event is Balance for Better – a reminder to keep working toward a gender-balanced world. This message can serve as a reminder to us that there is a unique cross-section of women working every day to help make ZF a global leader in the automotive technology industry.
In honor of International Women’s Day, we sat down with several of these women to get their perspective on success, and what it takes to #balanceforbetter, while shaping the next generation mobility.
When it comes to success, hard work, determination, and the ability to follow tasks through to completion seem to be common threads among the women.
“I attribute my success to my attitude,” said Tonya Todd Reeves, Quality Engineer. “The automotive industry can be frustrating. The one constant is change. My attitude helps me switch from one thing to the next without issues and helps me remain fluid.”
“Discipline is very important. It is also very important to be willing and ready to learn.”
Edith Gutierrez, Mexico Country Communications Lead
Things like mentorship and guidance from leaders and colleagues has also been crucial, especially early in their careers. Often, a mentor’s advice shapes not just the work we do, but also the approach we take.
“A former mentor of mine told me at a very early age that titles aren’t important, people are,” said Areaun Taylor, SR IT and Business Analyst. “If you treat everyone well, that goodwill will follow you. No matter the industry, it’s about people. They will always be our biggest asset.”
“A female executive once advised me to make sure I chose to spend my career at a company which valued diversity.”
Julie Moe, Senior Manager Portfolio
“I didn’t expect the impact diversity would have on me. I’m surrounded by colleagues from different backgrounds and cultures who are constantly challenging me with new ways of thinking, which has really helped my own career growth.”
Challenges and set-backs are a natural part of life. Often the challenges we face as women come from things that are out of our control.
“One major challenge was being the victim of downsizing,” said Reeves. “I had no indication that it was under way and it stunk. Additional, it was a recession and positions in the automotive industry were scarce. Luckily, I found a position that intrigued me. It required a major move, but I would not change a thing. I enjoy what I do.”
“Transparently, there have been many challenges I have faced - I don’t know whether that is due to being African American or to being a female in corporate America,” said Brittani Blackwell, Senior University Relations Lead for the Global Recruitment Center. “I feel that responding to these situations and circumstances is where power and self-confidence is gained. I overcome these challenges by educating counterparts, team members and colleagues about cultural differences and appropriateness in the workplace.”
“We have come a long way as women,” said Judy Bender, a machine operator. “We still have so much more to do. It’s so important to avoid complacency – to not lose the rights women have already fought hard to earn.”
“Challenges are normal in a career,” said Jeannine Rapp, Head of Corporate and Marketing Communications for Car Chassis Technology. “Sometimes they are opportunities to grow, such as a new project a lack of experience in a certain area or changing locations for a job. These are the challenges that helped me to develop as a person and in my career. Some challenges, however, are not that easy to overcome – such as taking a young woman seriously or having doubts and insecurities.”
“My biggest challenge has been to trust my knowledge, my authority and myself.”
Tannistha Roy, Design and Simulation engineer for Power Electronics, E-Mobility
“My biggest challenge has been to trust my knowledge, my authority and myself,” said Tannistha Roy, Design and Simulation engineer for Power Electronics, E-Mobility. “I received some advice from my first boss at ZF that helped. He told me to trust in myself and have confidence.”
When we discussed the importance of balance, most of the women we interviewed felt that balance is crucial to success. They also felt that balance comes from spending time outside of work doing what they enjoy – whether that be connecting with friends and family, or doing an activity, like gardening.
“I had to realize that balance does not necessarily mean 50/50,” said Reeves. “There are some days when work takes a greater share, and other days when my family takes more of my focus.”
“I have a passion for productivity,” said Moe. “I view my work much like a plant manager might view her plant – I’m constantly working to optimize my output – whether that’s a project I’m working on, or quality time with my kids. My best advice to anyone trying to balance work and life is to take a critical look at what you are doing during the day and make sure it adds value.”
When asked to share their wisdom with the next generation of budding STEM, confidence, courage and trust in yourself were at the top of the list.
“Listen to your instincts,” said Roy.
“Be steadfast in your pursuit,” said Madeline Gilmer, an Intern with the ZF Chassis Systems in Tuscaloosa. “You are entering a field where you are the minority. Don’t be intimidated by that.”
“You can be successful in whatever you choose to do as long as you enjoy doing it. If you like what you are doing, you will have the power to be successful.”
Katrin Fichtl, HR Director for Commercial Vehicle Steering Systems
In addition to advice, these amazing women are leading the next generation, and generations to come by example.
“I raised my daughter to be a strong woman,” said Bender. “She raised her daughter the same. Now, when I look at my granddaughter, I see four generations of strong, independent women.”
Thank you to all of the women who shared their insights with us, and who are fearlessly leading the charge toward a more balanced workplace.