Student founds first campus chapter of WiM - national director speaks at opening meeting

Of the 14 million Americans currently working in manufacturing, only 30 percent are women, but one BYU student is out to change that.

Thanks to the efforts of Rebecca Madsen, a senior in manufacturing engineering technology, Brigham Young University is now home to the first ever student chapter of Women in Manufacturing (WiM), a national professional organization. Madsen pushed to start the club because she hopes to attract more women to the manufacturing field and help those women reach their full potential.

Madsen found her major by Googling “how to become an astronaut.” After a brief sojourn with mechanical engineering, she switched to manufacturing. She wanted a career that would be “awesome but also challenging.”

“There was a time in my schooling when I felt like I was not cut out for engineering,” said Madsen in an interview with WiM. “Then I took the plastics and composites class. Things just clicked, and I realized what I enjoyed and why I enjoyed it. I knew I wanted to stick it out.”

Madsen’s love for manufacturing inspired her to start a manufacturing club for women. With help from her mentor, Dr. Alan Boardman, Madsen discovered WiM and contacted the organization about starting a student chapter.

“I love my program here at BYU, however, there are not many girls. I saw WiM as a chance for us to get better acquainted with one another and then use the programs that WiM offers to improve as women in manufacturing engineering.”

Brigham Young University was honored to have Allison Grealis, the national director of WiM, fly out for the first chapter meeting. Grealis spoke about the history of WiM and its future goals. She also mentioned the national need for manufacturers and how women are well-suited to fill it.

“It’s no longer your father’s or grandfather’s manufacturing,” said Grealis. “It’s more about brains versus brawn.”

Madsen echoed this sentiment in her interview.

“I want people to see that you don’t need to be covered in dirt, a math whiz or a body builder to be successful in manufacturing.”

The first BYU WiM meeting was held on March 18 and had about 40 people in attendance. Through the program, Madsen hopes that women will establish relationships with mentors as well as other women in manufacturing. She also hopes to reach out to younger girls, getting them excited about manufacturing early on.

Said Madsen, “BYU WiM will help current and future women in manufacturing to realize their full potential and realize we can do hard things!”

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