2022 Women in Manufacturing Symposium

On March 11th, the Southwest Virginia Alliance for Manufacturing along with Northeast State Community College and the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, hosted the Women in Manufacturing Symposium. The event took place at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon, VA. Coinciding with Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, this event celebrated the contributions of women to our region’s manufacturing base.

The Symposium welcomed Keynote Speaker Kellye Walker, EVP and Chief Legal Officer at Eastman in Kingsport, TN. She gave a keynote address entitled “How Broad Are Your Shoulders,” telling personal anecdotes and inspiring women to persevere through challenges. Kellye also moderated a panel discussion with women who work in the manufacturing field from regional companies. These women shared how their career pathway began in manufacturing, the job opportunities which are available to females today, and qualities that women possess that make them excel in manufacturing. Panelists also discussed wages, technical skill requirements for today’s manufacturing jobs, and shared their stories about how each of their careers progressed. Panelists included: Melinda Roberts, Human Resources Manager at Scholle IPN in Chilhowie, VA; Julie Fuller, President and Chief Operating Officer of Tadano Mantis Corporation in Richlands, VA; Amanda Boyer, Human Resource and Training Supervisor at A.O. Smith in Johnson City, TN, and Brandi Parsons, Mechanical/Piping Designer at S&B Engineering working as a contractor for Eastman in Kingsport, TN.


Panelists and Keynote Speaker



There were also two dedicated networking sessions and a wonderful lunch provided by Riverfront in Chilhowie, VA.

The event was enjoyed by manufacturing professionals, educators, and students. One educator said, “The Women in Manufacturing Symposium is a spotlight on success for nontraditional roles in manufacturing. As an educator, I think it is important for students to see and have an opportunity to interact with these professionals who have achieved success here in our own area. I think too often students see these successes as only available to people who live elsewhere. It’s important for them to know that through hard work and perseverance it’s available for them as well.”

A manufacturing professional perfectly summed up the event when she said, “A well thought out, empowering event for women of any age and level. Between the powerhouse speakers and the exceptional networking opportunities this is an event you will leave knowing it was time well spent.”

SVAM would like to thank fellow hosts and the following sponsors: Mountain Empire Community College, Virginia Highlands Community College, Southwest Virginia Community College, and the Appalachian Council for Innovation.