Celebrating Women in Manufacturing

Women make up approximately one-third of the manufacturing workforce.
May 29, 2024 2:00 PM ET

Hershey Company

Key Takeaways:

  • Across the country, women make up approximately one-third of the manufacturing workforce.
  • At The Hershey Company, women play critical roles in all aspects of manufacturing, from entry-level to leadership.
  • We asked some of our team members to talk about what their jobs mean to them and offer advice to other women and girls.

Manufacturing is a career filled with opportunities to learn and grow. While the industry has long been male-dominated, women today play an increasingly important role, making up about 29 percent of the manufacturing workforce, according to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). Hershey recently asked three team members what drew them to manufacturing, what they love about their work and what advice they could offer women and girls who might be considering this career path.

Here’s what they had to say:

Nicole Henderson

Sr. Director, Manufacturing, Derry Township.

Number of years with Hershey: 27

What led you to a career in manufacturing? My introduction to Hershey was through an internship, and I have held various roles ever since including quality assurance, quality and reliability control, lean manufacturing and plant management. During the early part of my career, I spent a significant amount of time in the plants on various project teams, but I knew that I did not have day-to-day experience at a plant. Once I had gained that differentiating experience, I knew I had found where I was meant to work.

What do you love most about your work? First and foremost, I love the people. Each plant team that I have worked with in the past has become my family. There is no other place than manufacturing to get that kind of leadership experience. I also love the pace of the plant; there is always something happening.

What advice would you offer girls and women who are considering this career path? Don’t be afraid to try manufacturing. People think that you can’t have a work-life balance when you work in a factory, but that isn’t true. I integrated my family into my work family, and there are close bonds there that I cherish.

Favorite Hershey product? HERSHEY-ETS

Megan Isais

Sr. Technical Assurance Manager – Engineering and Maintenance, Memphis Plant

Number of years with Hershey: 7

What led you to a career in manufacturing? With an academic background in chemical engineering, I knew a career in manufacturing would allow me to combine technical skills and creativity in a fast-paced environment. I was passionate about making a difference, so I was drawn to consumer goods manufacturing. I wanted to work in an industry that allowed me to contribute to innovation and technological advancement. Right after graduation, I stepped into the manufacturing world and have not looked back since!

What do you love most about your work? The people. I really enjoy the diverse culture at my plant and within my team. Working with collaborative and supportive people encourages a productive work atmosphere and inspires a more confident and innovative environment.

What advice would you offer girls and women who are considering this career path? Lean in and accept challenging technical leadership roles, find strong mentors to learn from, adopt strong healthy habits, learn new skills, be confident in your ideas, deliver on commitments and always help peers succeed.

Favorite Hershey product? Reese’s Take 5

Mary Leslie

Director of Operations, Dot’s seasoning plants

Number of years with Dot’s and Hershey: 3.5

What led you to a career in manufacturing? I had a college instructor who recognized my ambitions for growth and development. He mentored and encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone into the field of food manufacturing, which had more growth potential than my supervisor role at a distribution center. I took a leap of faith and began my first role in this field, producing smoked sausage. To this day, I cherish the decision to pursue a career in food manufacturing as one that has consistently enriched my professional journey.

What do you love most about your work? I love working with people, building teams and producing tangible products that people enjoy; there’s never a dull moment. Manufacturing gives me energy and fuels my passion.

What advice would you offer girls and women who are considering this career path? Never fear stepping into a role where women are the minority; this is an area where you leave your footprints and make a lasting impact. Manufacturing may not seem glamorous from the outside, but it is very rewarding both professionally and personally. I am a firm believer that women bring a different perspective into every aspect of their roles, immensely contributing to projects. In manufacturing, we are one big family.

Favorite Hershey product? I don’t just have one favorite. I love any filled Hershey’s Kisses, Rolo® Dark Salted Caramel in Rich Dark Chocolate Candy and of course all DOT’s pretzels.

We're delighted to showcase an important milestone from our Mandideep plant in India. Over the course of a single year, our Mandideep facility has transformed from having no female employees to proudly welcoming 100 women to its workforce. At Hershey, we are dedicated to fostering an inclusive environment where everyone can thrive. Congratulations to Hershey India and our Mandideep team for their dedication to creating an empowering workplace for all, one step at a time!