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Caterpillar VP Shares Thoughts About “Dancing on the Glass Ceiling”

Dec. 1, 2017
At a recent women in leadership event, Tana Utley shared tips for her counterparts in male-dominated industries.

At the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute’s (PMMI) Women’s Leadership Network Breakfast keynote address, Tana Utley, vice president of Caterpillar Inc., spoke about what it is like to be “Dancing on the Glass Ceiling.” The following was taken from the presentation (see videos of the presentation here).

There are seven dance steps you need to know, and they are not what I would have ever guessed:

1. Remember you’re always being judged.

People are judging all the time. In the grocery store we look at what someone else is buying and make assessments about whether they have a healthy lifestyle, or something else based on the things they purchased. This simple judgment or observation is natural, so we should be aware of it and strive to be our best self. Always be aware that people are watching you.

2. Read The Art of War, by Sun Tzu.

Know the art of war. Know yourself. Know your feminine strengths. Know your workplace. This seemed like a short step, but Tana mentioned some things she had to overcome, from being looked at as a daughter or date rather than a coworker; having to deal with other women that play corporate games; and more. Tana’s advice: Don’t engage in or play their games.

3. Build your “T.”

She called this the “T” model. Start building up your position, which is the column of your “T.” This will serve as your anchor, so don’t rush it. Then broaden yourself into the cross member of the “T.” Don’t branch out too fast. Being a jack of all trades is a dangerous thing in today’s market.

4. Trust = Competence x Intimacy.

It is important to make sure you are friendly with your co-workers and that you build a trust with them. Tana suggested using relaxed, open body language. She didn’t say that this was fair, just that some men are intimidated by a competent woman, and this will help to put them at ease. If men feel closer or more comfortable with you, and you are competent, you will grow trust.

5. Get your personal life right.

Keep yourself physically healthy, mentally healthy, and relieve stress before you explode. Most important is forgiveness and forgiveness to yourself. You’re not going to get it all done. Know when to outsource in your personal and professional life. Dry cleaning, groceries, movers, if the problem can be solved with money, it's not a problem. Balance work and family/life.

6. Continuously evolve, change, learn, and experiment.

This was mentioned over a tone of work life balance that followed through Tana’s speech. Experiment with different things. Maybe cut back on family to focus on work, or vice versa. If something isn’t working or there is resistance where there wasn’t resistance before, evolve, change, and experiment to hone your personal and professional life. Never stop—we live in a dynamic world, so what worked last year or yesterday may not work tomorrow or next year.

7. Give Back.

Be a role model. The best way to encourage women is for other women to reach out. Mentor younger women in your company, and be a light for your community.   

The Packaging & Processing Women's Leadership Network (https://www.pmmi.org/womens-leadership-network) serves to recruit, retain, and advance women's careers in packaging and processing. The next regional meeting takes place in Philadelphia, during PACK EXPO East, April 16-18, 2018.

About the Author

Jeff Kerns | Technology Editor

Studying mechanical engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), he worked in the Polymer Research Lab. Utilizing RIT’s co-op program Jeff worked for two aerospace companies focusing on drafting, quality, and manufacturing for aerospace fasteners and metallurgy. He also studied abroad living in Dubrovnik, Croatia. After college, he became a commissioning engineer, traveling the world working on precision rotary equipment. Then he attended a few masters courses at the local college, and helped an automation company build equipment.

Growing up in Lancaster County, PA he always liked to tinker, build, and invent. He is ecstatic to be at Hydraulics & Pneumatics Magazine in New York City and looks forward to producing valuable information in the mechanical industry. 

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