Manufacturing Women in Manufacturing


I want to attend a conference that will help me grow professionally and personally, but it’s not specifically tailored to the functional parts of my job. How can I get my boss to pay for the event, give me time off and say yes? – Jill, Manitoba.


Great question Jill! Professional development benefits everyone. Getting permission, backing up coverage and securing the funding to attend can be a challenge. Honestly, in my experience after 25 years in manufacturing, the hardest person to convince of the value may be yourself! Really want to impress your boss? Take it a step further than your department. Does your company have high-level objective? Social or community commitments? Pull that strategic plan down from the shelf, read through your annual report, scour your mission and vision statements and identify how sending you to an event like this will tie back to a commitment your company has made to a broader goal.


Here are a five tips and tricks I follow to create a positive outcome:


1. Know your facts

You want to go to a conference. Great, but why? What professional or personal gap will this time away from your job fill? Research the caliber and credentials of the conference (speakers, workshops, deliverables) and fully understand the objectives to communicate to others. When building a business case, facts matter. Take CME’s upcoming WiM Success Forum in March 2021, for example. Why is it important? 12,000 jobs are needed immediately and while women account for 50 per cent of the population; they account for only 28 per cent of the workforce. Do the math: promoting women in manufacturing makes economic sense. Business facts not just…hey I want to go, give me the funding!


2. Know your audience

You are the expert regarding your funding audience. What are your departments main KPI’s? What matters most? Productivity, Quality, Teamwork? What is the vocabulary and terminology used? Does your leader need extra time to make decisions? Is there a professional development (PD) budget? How does the PD opportunity support the current business framework and drive business results? It’s easy to get lost in the passion of the ask so be sure to use the shared language to ensure everyone understands. Anticipate objections and the underlying responses. Plan ahead and practice.  Consider making your ask in person and following up with an email. Manufacturing is an in-person industry, have your back up “idea” in place, remember you are coming with solutions not challenges.

3. Ask don’t tell

Invite your leader to share in the new experience with you. What can the conference bring to your organization? If you didn’t have to prove anything, how would you describe the opportunity to a colleague? What can your leader share about the subject – get them on board as a supporter not just a bank. You are creating a story.


4. Become the Subject Matter Expert your company needs on the subject

Arrive at the table with a solution, not a question. Show you are the expert on the subject. Propose a train the trainer format whereby you will attend the conference and then offer to put on a lunch and learn or other teaching session to share key takeaways with other employees.



Assume the sale. Prepare your solid business case, support your request and then respect that if it is possible it will be accepted: Keep it Simple, Sister. Believing you deserve to attend the conference may be your biggest obstacle. Ask yourself why do you want to attend? What draws you to the conference? If needed, would you spend your own money to learn the topics and engage in the learning provided? Lastly, how will you be different after you attend? Research the value, know the benefits and share the insight of collective success.


Good luck with the ask – share your experience. See you at the conference!


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Pam Grahame is a manufacturing leader with more than three decades of experience in the industry. Through the Ask the Lady in the Hard Hat series, Pam provides the benefit of her extensive experience to frequently asked questions from women in manufacturing on how to navigate an exciting and at times challenging career path in Canada’s largest economic sector. Learn more about Pam at