Defying the Odds
July 7, 2015
1986 was the year Marietta Cleveland started her first job as a skilled trades supervisor at the Belvidere Assembly Plant in Illinois. Having just graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.S. in electrical engineering, Cleveland had little management experience, but was tasked with managing a group of electricians, pipefitters and millwrights— all of which were men. This made her the first woman maintenance manager at FCA US and the first African American manager in her department.
“I was drawn to the position because it allowed me to work directly with the workers on the floor and utilize my technical skills at the same time,” Cleveland said.
Fast-forward to 2015 and Maria Quintero is walking the halls of FCA US LLC headquarters in Michigan. A recent graduate, she’s now an engineer with the Company’s Institute of Engineering (CIE) Program. She admits being a woman and a Latina is not something you frequently encounter in the field.
In the nearly 30 years since both women started their careers and despite having more women in the workforce today, Cleveland and Quintero represent the small number of women and the even smaller number of minority women working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields.
Powering the STEM Talent Pipeline
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up 47% of the U.S. workforce, but are much less represented in particular science and engineering occupations. For example: 18% of industrial engineers are women; 8.8% of electrical and electronics engineers are women and 4.5% of mechanical engineers are women.
The number of minority women in these STEM fields is even smaller. According to the National Science Foundation, minority women comprise fewer than 1 in 10 employed scientists and engineers.
In light of these statistics, FCA US has made a longstanding commitment to recruit diverse talent and support education initiatives for women and minorities in STEM.
FCA US has numerous programs encouraging students to pursue STEM fields. The Company recently sponsored Great Minds in STEM™, an organization that provides scholarships to Hispanic students majoring in a STEM field.
In addition, in 2014 FCA US partnered with Florida International University (FIU), to sponsor a STEM education initiative called Engineers on Wheels. Staffed by FIU students and overseen by FIU faculty, Engineers on Wheels brings engineering education into South Florida’s public schools, giving students the opportunity to become familiar with the high-tech, hands-on education they need to prepare for future success in STEM subjects and careers.
The Company also sponsors Formula SAE Teams which allow engineering students to conceive, design, fabricate and race formula-style cars. And since 1995, the FCA Foundation has awarded more than $2.3 million in grants to FIRST Robotics programs across the United States and Canada.
In addition, FCA US continues to be an active supporter of organizations such as the National Black MBA Association and National Association of Hispanic MBAs to recruit talented MBA candidates from the nation’s leading business schools for the Company’s finance and leadership development programs.
Supporting Diverse Leaders
FCA US is also committed to supporting organizations that nurture the academic and professional development of diverse technical leaders, including:
- American Indian Science & Engineering Society
- National Association of Hispanic MBAs
- National Black MBA Association
- SAE International
- Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers
- Society of Women Engineers
The FCA US Women of Color winners gather around a 2015 Chrysler 200 at the annual Women of Color STEM Conference in Detroit, Mich.
FCA US Women of Color Special Recognition award winners Anna Yang Shu (left) and Angela Zielinski (right) stand with Marios Zenios (far right), Vice President - Electronic Software Quality,
FCA US was selected by Latina Style as one of the top twelve companies for Hispanic women to work in the U.S. The ranking is part of the annual Latina Style 50 report.
Employees at FCA US have consistently received important technical professional recognition from various diversity organizations, including Black Engineer of the Year, Women of Color, Great Minds in STEM, U.S. Black Engineer & Information Technology, and others.
“We are consistently finding many organizations that are doing their fair share in building the STEM pipeline,” said Tyrone Taborn, editor in chief of USBE&IT magazine. “Black students and professionals want to know what these organizations are doing for their colleges because they want to work for employers that are committed to their community.”
In February, four FCA US engineers were recognized at the annual Black Engineer of the Year event, which included several Modern Day Technology Leader awards, given each year to young engineers who have provided a significant contribution to their field.
This past fall, ten FCA US women captured awards for excellence in managerial leadership or as technology rising stars at the annual Women of Color STEM Conference. These awards underscore the Company’s commitment to develop the talents of diverse employees and to promote careers in STEM.
Paving the Way for the Future
FCA US continues its efforts in promoting STEM careers externally, but also recognizes the need for internal efforts with current employees.
In Quintero’s case, her desire to study engineering came from multiple sources. She had always been interested in science fields and with the support of her family, many of whom already worked in the engineering field, her career choice felt natural. Ultimately, she felt the biggest influence on her decision was that engineering could open a multitude of doors and wouldn’t restrict her to one industry or one type of job.
“With engineering you have such a big realm of options.” Quintero said. “If I don’t like the job I’m doing, I can apply engineering skills to all different areas.”
Quintero finds solace in the CIE Programs structure, which takes 32-34 recent engineering graduates and has them complete seven four-month rotations in different engineering and or manufacturing roles. She says the program helps build relationships with fellow CIE colleagues to gain support.
“The CIE Program lets you explore what you like and what you don’t. You meet a lot of leaders and you can learn from each other,” Quintero said.
As for Cleveland, she went on to hold various management positions with the Company. She credits the ability to embrace challenge as one of the reasons for her success.
Cleveland is now Senior Manager – Quality Pillar Lead at FCA US, and a role model for women and minority women in her field, which is key to showing others that they can succeed in the fields of engineering and manufacturing.
“I know that what I went through helped pave an easier path for other women who came after me,” she said. “Today when I look around at the facilities I have run, I see women in leadership roles all the way up the plant.”