More than six million women entered the American workforce between 1941 and 1944, taking jobs in manufacturing building bombers, jeeps, and tanks to support the war effort after “the boys” were sent overseas. In the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, CA, women helped to build more than 700 Victory and Liberty ships during World War II, though most of them had no previous experience in riveting or welding. Rosie the Riveter was a symbol of women’s independence and economic power, but at the end of the war, many of those “Rosies” returned to the kitchen or lower-paid clerical roles from which they’d come.
Fast-forward 70-some years, and Danielle Applestone, founder of Daughters of Rosie, wants to bring women back into manufacturing, though not necessarily for riveting and welding. Her grassroots program, dubbed “the first professional network that supports working-class women,” offers paid onsite training in a range of 21st-century manufacturing roles.
Successful completion of the four- to eight-week training program could lead to a full-time job with a competitive salary plus benefits. Saildrone is proud to partner with Daughters of Rosie to offer new and exciting composite manufacturing career paths that support women.
Applestone is from rural Arkansas and the first person in her family to graduate college. She earned a Ph.D. in materials science from the University of Texas at Austin and went on to start a software company and a robotics company.
“Getting skilled, learning how to build stuff, and getting into science—that’s what really opened doors in my life,” she said. But, she added, a four-year degree isn’t the only option.
Why choose a career in manufacturing?
Culturally, there’s a very high value placed on a college degree, but vocational and hands-on technical educations are incredibly valuable to the economy. Manufacturing makes up approximately 12% of the US gross domestic product, generating more than $2 trillion annually, and domestic manufacturing is surging. By 2025, there are expected to be two million available jobs. Applestone wants a good chunk of those to go to women.
“At my robotics company we built a factory, and that’s when I realized how powerful it can be for women to get their first technical job, and how it changes what you’re able to do with your life,” said Applestone. “I decided to start Daughters of Rosie to provide a way for women to get skills and increase their network beyond who they already know.”
It can be a big leap for a lot of people, especially women, to make a move into manufacturing, but there are a lot of benefits—tangible and intangible. Daughters of Rosie partner companies pay at least $17 per hour and offer valuable benefits like health insurance and paid vacation. Manufacturing provides a lot more potential for career growth compared to retail or food service. Plus, there’s satisfaction at the end of the day that you built something.
Who are the daughters of Rosie?
The daughters of Rosie aren’t exclusively women. “Our mission is to increase the representation of women in manufacturing, but we don't exclude anyone. Anyone who wants to become a member of DOR is welcome,” said Applestone. Daughters of Rosie uses women* to include individuals who identify as non-binary, gender non-conforming, trans-, cis-, or otherwise.
Applestone stresses the importance of diversity in the workplace (background, age, gender, and/or education) as crucial for innovation. “If you’re trying to solve problems, you want as many different perspectives looking at the problem as possible.”
Automation is expected to affect half of all activities currently performed by people in the coming decades. A huge chunk of the workforce is going to have to be retrained and upskilled. With so many companies hungry for talent, they’re willing to take a new approach to find great workers, and there’s going to be a shift to looking for potential vs. experience.
“You can’t find anybody who’s built an unmanned surface vehicle before, so you have to find people with potential and train them efficiently and consistently,” Applestone explained.
Annie Edinger started the Composites Training Program at Saildrone with no prior knowledge of composites manufacturing techniques, but after several years working at a desk in marketing, she was ready for a change of pace.
“The Daughters of Rosie program seemed like a fantastic opportunity to learn hands-on technical skills in a two-month paid apprenticeship. As a lifelong sailor, I was energized by the idea of working in the marine science and boatbuilding sphere. My father provided further encouragement, citing the endless opportunities in composite manufacturing, from aerospace, boatbuilding, sporting equipment, 3D printing, and beyond,” said Edinger.
“Daughters of Rosie has been a life changing experience for me. In the past, I have found that as a woman it was challenging to find opportunities in fabrication or learn new skills, and this program has made it all so much easier,” said Daughters of Rosie member Gaily Ezer. “The training at Saildrone was cohesive and all-encompassing and provided me with valuable skills and the confidence to work in composites full time.”
Want to hire with Daughters of Rosie?
The ideal Daughters of Rosie training partner is a manufacturing or hardware production company with 20 or more employees and at least open three entry-level positions in some type of skilled manufacturing.
“Saildrone is a great partner because the work involves real skills. It takes real skills to manufacture a composite hull,” explained Applestone.
Edinger says the skills she’s acquired at Saildrone, the range of tools, and technical processes are transferable to any future career she may choose. “And, the company culture is unmatched! I’m working with supportive women and men, and opportunities for extracurriculars like crabbing boat expeditions, team sports, and social lunch breaks. As a woman working in a male-dominated field, I’m happy that I feel empowered and listened to. I would recommend the Daughters of Rosie program at Saildrone to any woman looking to make the leap into this exciting and growing field.”
How to apply
No previous experience in manufacturing is required to join Daughters of Rosie, just the right attitude and the willingness to show up on time, and the application process is surprisingly simple. Applicants should fill out a brief information form including a few sentences about why they’re interested in manufacturing. Daughters of Rosie will follow up with an email about available opportunities and provide assistance with writing a successful cover letter and resume and tips on how to interview for a manufacturing job.
Becoming a member of Daughters of Rosie is completely free, and successful applicants will be paid hourly to train onsite. As the program expands, local and regional chapters will emerge providing face-to-face networking opportunities for members.
“Our main goal is to make women aware that these jobs exist and that there are manufacturing workplaces that want them. And then we give people the extra support they need, to say, ‘You can do it,’” said Applestone.
Saildrone designs, manufactures and operates a global fleet of wind and solar powered ocean drones, providing in-situ data collection services, global ocean data sets and enhanced weather forecast applications.