The return of Rosie the Riveter

Posted on 8 May 2024 by Molly Cooper

According to a recent whitepaper by MSP, women make up only one in six employees in the manufacturing UK workforce. As we continue to tackle this issue and encourage women into the sector, Molly Cooper speaks to Collette Zaro, VP of People at Moxion Power, about its inclusive hiring process across the pond in the US, the impactful discussions it is having surrounding bias and how WW2’s Rosie the Riveter is helping them.

Firstly, can you tell us a bit about Moxion Power and yourself?

CZ: Moxion Power is based in Richmond, California at the former Ford Point Assembly plant which is also home to the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park. It is a vertically integrated manufacturer of mobile battery energy storage systems and offers an alternative to expensive carbon intensive diesel generators. Moxion Power is a 100% electric alternative solution for industries such as film, emergency response, utilities, defence, events and is a way for these sectors to decarbonise their operations.

I am VP of People and lead the company’s HR, recruiting, learning and development teams. We hire, develop, grow, engage and retain our workforce at Moxion.

Tell us about the company’s new manufacturing facility?

Our new gigafactory is set to open later this year which has been built directly across the street from our headquarters. It is a 205,000 sq ft facility and one of the largest clean energy manufacturing facilities in the US. Moxion Power will be creating over 600 local manufacturing jobs and manufacturing over seven gigawatt hours of battery capacity once it is in full operation, over the next four years.

What is the significance of the facility’s close location to the Rosie the Riveter Museum?

It’s special to us, and we had the honour of having some Rosie the Riveters be part of the opening of the facility. Betty Reid Soskin, a 102 year old retired US ranger with the National Park Service, came for a book signing and acted as an ambassador.

Rosie the Riveter and the campaign ‘We Can Do It!’ was aimed at recruiting females into the workforce during WW2 and became an iconic image for the working woman. She paved the way for women entering the workforce at the time, taking on work which was formerly thought of as a solely male domain. This era showed how capable and necessary women were and changed the working landscape. This resonates with Moxion Power as we are also creating our own history here at the previous Ford Point Assembly plant.

How is Moxion Power welcoming women into the manufacturing space?

When we think about welcoming women into the workplace, there’s a variety of things that contribute to this. At Moxion Power we are consistently evaluating what this means for women and getting their feedback.

Mentorship is important, as is having the right people in the workplace that you trust and feel safe speaking to. We have been working on some of our mentorship programmes and earlier this year, we set up ‘new hire’ buddies. The goal is that you have someone on your first day that you know and can go to for anything. We look at this closely and try to connect people who have similarities, so they feel welcome in their first couple of weeks.

During Women’s History Month, we ran several workshops around mentorship and how to be an effective mentor. This was focused on how to be a great mentor for women. Through that, we were able to build some mentorship relationships and pilot some women in mentorship roles.

Moxion Power are also building a woman’s employee resource group, to set up a place where people can come and share some of their experiences.

The return of Rosie the Riveter
Moxion Power, International Women’s Day workshop.

Being the VP of People, you help to recruit and build a diverse team at Moxion Power. What strategies are in place to ensure this?

There’s a lot of evidence out there that state women only apply for a job if they think they have met 100% of the criteria – that figure drops to 60% for male applicants. When Moxion Power think about inclusive hiring, we consider the job, the qualifications required and how can we put together a job description that is going to attract women.

This is about considering what we can remove from the criteria, are all the qualifications necessary and can they provide experience for the role in other ways? By thinking about what is and isn’t critical, we can remove some of those barriers. We also use a gender decoder which we run our descriptions through which shows us how to adjust the language used in the job listings.

Then we think about where we are going to find the talent. If we continue to look in the same places, we will receive the same pool of candidates. Moxion Power is intentional about its sourcing strategies, and we seek out women who are attending industry events so we can showcase the opportunities that exist.

However, once we have hired, it’s about creating an inclusive working environment. According to recent research from the Institute of Women’s Policy Research, one of the main reasons women leave the industry is lack of respect or harassment.

For Moxion Power, it’s about having those honest conversations during an interview process, about our workplace policies and what the environment is like. The interview process itself has a lot of room for bias, so we ensure we have an objective criteria and are focused on the core competencies.

We are looking at the process from start to finish and trying to be as objective as possible, but also making it an inclusive as possible.

Are there statistics on diversity within the Moxion workforce? How are you looking to improve this?

We are currently around 25% women at Moxion Power; long-term we want to exceed the average and grow that. We are currently focused on increasing our representation at a leadership level and making sure it is visible to aspiring employees.

You held a discussion on International Women’s Day regarding broadening areas of inclusion and delivering on promises of accessibility. Can you reflect on any of the points that were raised and what action will be taken going forward?

International Women’s Day and month were impactful, but the question was how we continue this afterwards to sustain the effort throughout the rest of the year.

I used the International Women’s Day discussion as a call to action for everyone around how to advocate for women. We led workshops and training around women in the workplace, targeted towards addressing bias and how this is presented.

It was predominately male participation at the workshops and we had some uncomfortable conversations which required active involvement. We discussed how we overcome specific situations, such as someone talking over you in a meeting, not receiving credit for work and how to act when these are spotted in the workplace. It was about asking, ‘are you going say something? How do you say it? How do you approach it?’ and everyone is at a different stage of their journey with this. The intention was to provide them with tools, conversations and words to say in those moments that would help advocate for the women in the room.

Many people had not taken part in that type of bias training to understand microaggression and for some it was the first time they had realised it was happening. Opening that discussion was powerful and has had some long-lasting effects, so we will continue to host these.

As a US company, can you think of any challenges that differ in other parts of the world, e.g. the UK?

Bias and microaggressions are faced by women across the world. However, in different geographies some of the legal and regulatory frameworks around gender equality and workplace rights can differ. In particular, maternity leave as well as anti-discrimination laws, and affirmative action measures. Some cultural attitudes towards women and the typical gender roles in the workplace can also vary a lot depending on location.

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