Non-profit advocacy group Women in Electronics (WE) was formed in 2017 to empower women through networking opportunities; develop them through a virtual leadership program; and celebrate their successes along the way. The organization recently wrapped up its third annual leadership conference and now has 300 members. Jackie Mattox, founder and president of WE and national director of distribution at Bivar, discusses the evolution of Women in Electronics with EPSNews.
EPSNews: I’ve always been torn over the use of “woman”, as in woman astronaut, because “astronaut” itself is a distinction. At the same time, I personally understand the unique challenges women face in the workforce. How did WE come about?
Mattox: Women in Electronics (WE) was born from a spirit of celebrating women. The electronic component industry is a very male-dominated industry with a small percentage of women in upper level management positions. As founder, I noticed there was a big talent gap with our male leaders maturing and not seeing enough diverse leaders coming up in the pipeline. Women have a competitive edge in the workplace with their ability to think with their heads and hearts – capitalizing on their natural instincts. Studies show that when there is an equal representation of men and women in decision-making positions, profits increase. The mission of WE is to develop the leadership talent of women in the industry in preparation for that next step on the ladder of their professional journeys.
EPSNews: Are the challenges in electronics different than other industries? If so, how?
Mattox: I believe we face the same issues many women face in other male-dominated industries. Having said that, WE is about unity, not division. We want to add value and work alongside our male peers to leave a lasting legacy in the industry. We believe that all leaders, male and female, will be better together.
EPSNews: What kind of feedback are you getting from the women that you are mentoring? Are you finding any generational differences?
Mattox: Our mentor pilot program is in the process now. We have not completed it so I cannot comment on that, but I have had the opportunity to speak to our youth in the industry through a program called SPARK. We have an industry association called ECIA that helps recruit youth into the industry and also helps guide them along in their journey. I have been honored to speak at a few events and enjoyed receiving important feedback from them. There definitely seems to be a disconnect with our youth feeling valued and “heard.” They seem to want a seat at the table so that they can make an impact with their ideas and creativity.
The electronics industry has been based on traditional models for many years, change is hard and slow. However, the leaders from some of our driving companies in the industry are receptive to change and many are supporting WE with sponsorship. Amphenol, Arrow, Avnet, Cornell Dubilier, Digi-Key, Kemet, and Newark decided to become founding sponsors to support progress with inclusion and diversity. We also added AVX, TE Connectivity, and the TTI family of companies to our corporate sponsor list as well, so we are looking forward to partnering with the critical decision makers to open the doors to equal opportunity in leadership roles.
EPSNews: I’d imagine WE members interface with a lot of men. Have they been receptive/supportive?
Mattox: I’m very humbled and impressed by our male leaders who have been incredibly supportive. The goal in working with them is to implement policy change. Following that, we would like to keep the discussion going for how to guide the process as it moves down into the organizations, which can be a much slower process and will require grace, patience, and education.
EPSNews: What achievements – so far – would you like to highlight?
Mattox: Since we began in 2017, we formed a 501c3, and we signed on a non-profit management company called OneOC that manages all of our finances and keeps us up-to-speed and compliant with the non-profit laws. We have an executive team, Monica Highfill, Amy Keller, and myself. We have 11 advisory board members and we are currently forming a sponsorship council and an advisory council made up of both men and women.
Our current membership is 300 and our goal is 500 in 2019 and 1,000 in 2020. We have six founding sponsors and three corporate sponsors and are working with many more leading companies to partner in 2020 as well. We have a website, www.womeninelectronics.com, that tells the story of WE and serves as our central hub for members-only professional development resources. We have a monthly virtual leadership development program that is discussed at our 18 chapters across the country. And very exciting, we recently launched our live radio program where we have the amazing opportunity to interview key leaders within our industry.
Last but not least, we have had three consecutive years of very powerful conferences (“Better Together,” “Better than our Best,” and “Fear-Less”) and look forward to many more! We have plans to go global in the next couple of years. We have come very far from 2017 and have so much more ahead!
EPSNews: This is the part where I ask you what I have missed in regard to this topic?
Mattox: The goals of Women in Electronics are to empower women through rare networking opportunities, develop them through our virtual leadership development program, advocate for them in a formal mentorship program, and celebrate their successes along the way.