Army arsenal celebrates women’s history through action

By Matthew DayApril 3, 2024

Army arsenal celebrates women’s history through action
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Angelina Mantoo, center, a sophomore at Guilderland High School, shared how she feels educators and potential employers can do more to attract young women into careers in STEM fields during a round table discussion at Watervliet Arsenal on March 20, 2024. The suggestion to engage women at elementary and middle school ages resonated with arsenal leadership and is something the leaders are looking to implement. (Photo Credit: Tanya Bissaillon) VIEW ORIGINAL
Army arsenal celebrates women’s history through action
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Watervliet Arsenal and Benet Laboratories leadership held a round table discussion with students and staff from Guilderland High School on how to encourage more women to pursue careers in STEM and manufacturing as part of the arsenal’s Women’s History Month celebration on March 20, 2024. (Photo Credit: Tanya Bissaillon) VIEW ORIGINAL
Army arsenal celebrates women’s history through action
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Sophomores from Guilderland High School examine a 60mm M224 mortar tube during a tour of manufacturing and science labs at Watervliet Arsenal on March 20, 2024. The tour was part of the arsenal’s Women’s History Month celebration that concluded with a round table discussion between students and arsenal leadership on how to encourage more women to pursue careers in STEM and manufacturing. (Photo Credit: Tanya Bissaillon) VIEW ORIGINAL

WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. — March 20, 2024 — Watervliet Arsenal leadership celebrated Women’s History Month by hosting a roundtable discussion on STEM and manufacturing careers for female students from the Guilderland School District on March 20.

The event aimed to open an exchange of experiences, ideas and goals and to help arsenal leadership discover how they can better share career opportunities with the next generation of female leaders in the surrounding community.

Guilderland School District Superintendent Marie Wiles opened the discussion by highlighting the challenges educators face in attracting young women to science, technology, engineering, math and manufacturing career paths.

“The extent to which we have young women in our technology programs is an area we struggle with, even though our high-level math and science courses are about equal as far as women and men,” Wiles said. “As we walked through the labs today, I was thinking, ‘How do we harness the ingenuity of the young women with us today to spur the interest of more women to go into those strictly technology-based and manufacturing-specific careers?’”

For the arsenal’s part, leaders shared the progress they have made in hiring more women in STEM positions at Watervliet Arsenal. Jeanne Brooks, director of Benet Laboratories, highlighted that the proportion of women in engineering and science positions rose to more than 20% in recent years.

“When I started college nearly 30 years ago, I was a mechanical engineer student at RIT [Rochester Institute of Technology] , and there were five girls in the entire program — and that seemed normal then,” Brooks said. “Doing things like this and reaching out to colleges and high schools and trying to show what we do and why it’s interesting make a difference. We must be doing something right, because we have seen that number grow, and I would like to see that number continue to grow.”

A key takeaway from the discussion was the importance of engaging with female students at a younger age. One student remarked that her interest in STEM fields began after being inspired by a presentation in elementary school.

“After seeing everything the arsenal has to offer, it has really interested me in the STEM field,” Angelina Mantoo, a sophomore at Guilderland High School, said. “I think doing more of these [events] and reaching out to younger students would be great.”

The astute observation mirrored what arsenal outreach personnel have noted in engagements with high school students. Simply put, by the junior or senior year of high school, most students have already solidified their plans.

Tom Mulheren, WVA machinist apprentice program manager, highlighted the four-year program as a pipeline for developing skilled machinists and leaders since the early 1900s. Mulheren, an apprentice graduate himself, spoke about his commitment to ensuring that the program is seen as an opportunity for the entire community, including women. He noted a recent increase in the number of female machinist apprentices hired.

Watervliet Arsenal Commander Col. Alain Fisher’s mother, Sigrid Fisher, who was an educator for more than 25 years at the El Paso County District 8 Elementary School in Colorado, joined the panel.

“I am so excited to see so many female students interested in STEM careers,” Ms. Fisher shared. “Imagine what you can be in the future; consider your talents, follow your passions and focus on achieving those goals.”

The discussion followed a tour of the Watervliet Arsenal manufacturing areas and Benet Laboratories’ science labs, where the diverse range of STEM and manufacturing careers at the arsenal were showcased. Arsenal leaders plan to expand outreach efforts in the local community and will apply the information shared by the Guilderland students and staff.

Since 1987, Women’s History Month has been celebrated every March to recognize women’s contributions to American society, despite historical inequities. The theme for 2024, “Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion,” honors women working for fairness and justice across various fields and institutions.

Watervliet Arsenal is an Army-owned and -operated manufacturing facility and is the oldest continuously active arsenal in the United States, having begun operations during the War of 1812. Today the arsenal is relied upon by U.S. and allied militaries to produce the highest-tech, highest-powered and most advanced cannons, howitzers and mortar systems.