The Machinists Union is following through on its promise to support women in their efforts to rise through the ranks of the IAM to leadership positions across North America.
International President Robert Martinez Jr. announced the creation of the Leadership Excellence Assembly of Dedicated Sisters (LEADS) program earlier this year. The program’s mission is to prepare more IAM sisters for the roles of Business Representatives, Directing Business Representatives, President/Directing General Chairs and other union leaders, so they can make informed decisions about seeking higher office.
More than 10 district leaders and 25 women members, representing every territory of the IAM, attended a meeting last week at the William W. Winpisinger Education and Technology Center to plan curriculum for upcoming classes. The meeting began with motivating and sometimes emotional stories from General Secretary-Treasurer Dora Cervantes about obstacles she has had to overcome in her rise to the second highest position of the union.
“The value of gender diversity – particularly in the workplace – cannot be overstated,” said Cervantes. “It starts with our union.”
“Having more female leaders in positions of influence is not only critical to the overall advancement of our IAM sisters, but to our entire union as a whole,” said Cervantes. “We can’t talk change in the workplace without female voices at the table.”
The LEADS program is being developed in the field, for the field and is a joint venture between the Women’s and Human Rights Department and the Winpisinger Center in Hollywood, Md.
“I personally felt honored to see the commitment and engagement from these members and leaders to develop a program that will grow our union by building a deeper bench of strong leaders that reflect our membership long into the future,” said Carla M. Siegel, IAM Women’s and Human Rights Department Director and General Counsel.
Participants identified obstacles, brainstormed solutions and dealt with the painful realities many IAM women members face in their quest to excel, as well as new obstacles that so often present themselves once a woman does achieve a higher position. They also discussed how to build a program that works with districts of all sizes and independent lodges. Accessibility was another important topic of discussion, including affordability.
“Together, you are going to be the driving force behind creating pathways for countless more women to take their rightful place in leadership roles in the IAM,” said Martinez. “Let me be crystal clear; that means our IAM Sisters must be in leadership positions at every level of our union. Not just at the local lodge level, but at the district lodge and Grand Lodge levels as well.”
“The LEADS Program is about ensuring that our organization is relevant in the future; workforce demographics have changed dramatically – women now make up 57% of the workforce,” said Winpisinger Center Director Chris Wagoner. “The LEADS Program ensures that our leadership ranks reflect our future membership. LEADS positions the IAM for success in the future. LEADS opens doors and creates opportunities for sisters to lead.”
The LEADS program is still in its planning stages, but organizers hope to roll it out in the next few months. For more information, please contact your DBR or PDGC.