Severine Zygmont grew up in France and credits her high school teachers with instilling in her a love of math and science.
"I happened to be good at numbers," she said. "They recognized that and told me it was a good skill set to have for the future."
After graduating with a chemical engineering degree, Zygmont got her first job with New Britain, Conn.-based Oxford Polymers, which develops semi-plastic materials.
"It was the perfect opportunity for me. I learned the technical side and the business side of manufacturing," said Zygmont, 39.
She left in 2000 and co-founded her own company, Oxford Performance Materials. The South Windsor, Conn.-based firm uses 3-D technology to develop polymers for the biomedical, aerospace and defense industries.
Her firm has 32 employees today, 43% of whom are women.
"To get women interested in manufacturing, it has to start in school," she said. "You have to get them excited about science and math. There's no reason why women can't excel in this industry."