Ashley Women Honored for Manufacturing Excellence

Ashley’s Andrea Baker, left, and Evelina Rurek were recognized as “exceptional women in manufacturing” by The Manufacturing Institute.

By Alan Wolf, YSN

Two women from Ashley Furniture Industries were honored last month by The Manufacturing Institute (MI) for excellence in their career paths and leadership.

The pair — casegoods operations director Evelina Rurek and quality control labs manager Andrea Baker — received MI’s annual STEP Ahead Award, which recognizes “exceptional women in manufacturing.”

The awards program, which spans all manufacturing roles from the factory floor to the C-suite, is also designed to inspire role models who can mentor and motivate the industry’s next generation of female leaders.

According to MI, women account for about half of the U.S. labor force but represent less than one-third of the manufacturing workforce. The trade group, whose mission is to expand and support a skilled manufacturing workforce, argues that manufacturers can cut its shortage of skilled talent by 50 percent by simply bringing 10 percent more women into the industry.

“The 2020 STEP Ahead honorees … reinforce the exciting opportunities available in manufacturing and help inspire more women to pursue these careers,” said Erika Peterman, 2020 STEP Ahead chair and senior vice president of BASF Corporation’s Chemical Intermediates North America business. “A natural evolution of the manufacturing workforce is taking place as more women enter into leadership roles, bringing innovative ideas and transforming how we work and increase productivity.”

Ashley’s Rurek and Baker were among 130 recipients at this year’s virtual awards ceremony. “It is an honor to be recognized as a leader in manufacturing, and as someone who truly believes that it is our duty to help mentor, train, and develop the next generation of leaders,” Rurek said. “Women are a great source of talent for manufacturing and it’s our example of success that motivates more of them to join our industry, and to show there are no limits for what one can achieve.” 

Added Baker, “I am humbled by this award. I’m proud of the 20 years I have been with Ashley and I look forward to 20 more; their recognition of women in manufacturing is a prime example of why this is a great company to work for.”

In a statement, Ashley founder and chairman Ron Wanek called the recognition well deserved. “We couldn’t be more proud to have two of our very own be honored with this prestigious award,” he said, adding that Ashley has “many intelligent and talented women helping us meet our vision of being the best furniture company.”

MI executive director Carolyn Lee summed it up succinctly. “The women being honored demonstrate what modern manufacturing careers are all about: making an impact in their communities with meaningful careers that offer significant opportunities for growth.”