Jennifer Bass

women in manufacturing jen bass

It never occurred to Jennifer Bass that manufacturing wasn't something for women.

"I wasn't exposed to that sentiment at all," she said. "In school, I loved math and science. My teachers told me these subjects were as viable a career path as any other."

Bass, 41, got an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering and an MBA and then worked with two different paint and chemical manufacturers.

In 2004, she bought Essve Tech, a manufacturer of corrugated steel pipes in Alpharetta, Ga.

The business was in pretty good shape, she said. "But I was a woman coming into an all-male firm of 10 employees. I thought it was important to establish my credibility right away."

So she spent a lot of time on the factory floor, learning the process and speaking with employees and customers.

The effort paid off. Although she declined to disclose sales figures, she said they have since grown significantly since she came on board.

She wants other women to know that the manufacturing industry isn't like it was 10 years ago.

"It's less about brute force and getting your hands dirty and more about use of advanced technology and design," she said. "This has really leveled the playing field."

First published June 19, 2014: 11:08 AM ET

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