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Meet Ruby Hines – Her views on equality and diversity in an industrial environment

“I didn’t think I would ever see that in my career,” says Ruby Hines, when speaking about women in the workforce.

Ruby is the production control process leader at Hydro’s aluminium extrusion plant in Elkhart, Indiana, a city best known for recreational vehicles and music instruments. Ruby has been employed at the plant for 12 years, and has worked closely with the site’s production personnel throughout her career.

The culture of industrial companies tends to speak to men. Is this changing?

When I first started here, the gentleman who introduced me to the company – it still rings in my mind 12 years later – he told me that this is a man’s world. That you kind of have to be quiet and put your nose to the grind to be successful here. In the back of my mind, I thought, I guess they don’t know me. Because I was going to prove them wrong. I think I did.

We have a long ways to go with the industrial environment and introducing women. We have a lot to offer. We have been passed over for years, especially when it comes to industrial environments. I think industry is really far behind where we need to be in terms of equality and diversity, but I feel that Hydro is taking action to mitigate that. I didn’t think I would ever see that in my career. And I do. I’ll be with Hydro forever.

Why is this important to you?

I have nine grandchildren – eight are women. And four of them are women of color. And they are growing up in a very tough world.

The world, I don’t think we’re focusing on the right things – on our people. We’re focusing on image. Hydro doesn’t necessarily care about its image. They care about how we feel about them. Because they know that if they care about us as employees and as people, then we’re going to care about them. And I think Hydro is going to pave the way for a lot of women and for a lot of people, whether they have a disability or whether they’re a person of color or whatever.

I feel that Hydro has given me the opportunity to leave a legacy for them – and that’s what is important to me. I can’t change the world for them, not by myself. But I can be a very small piece of that. And I hope that one day they can look back and say that I was part of the movement that changed the world for them.

I was raised by a single mom and she raised four kids on her own. She never got the recognition she deserved. I’m not looking for recognition. What I am looking for is the change that is going to change the projectile of the future for my grandkids. And that’s what’s important to me.

How can we raise the gender balance in operations, where only 17% of our employees are women?

In my career at the Elkhart facility, I only know of two women who actually were successful – my colleague Bre and another young lady that was a group leader for a while in the extrusion area.

The image is that the job is strenuous and that you have to be strong. It's always been the big, strong guy throwing away large pieces of scrap. You never thought you could get a 5-foot-1 woman to go in there and throw away scrap or load dies. And so when you look at extrusion and the press operators – when you look at other manufacturing industries, you see women, but you don't see them in those tough jobs. There are a lot of folks out there who do understand that women are important in the workforce and that we are capable. But we live in a world where we are just accustomed to – not being able to take that extra step.

What we do, especially when hiring managers, and maybe I am guilty of this as well, is we have this image of who should be in this position, because this is the image you've always had. You’re not necessarily taking the person that you know has a good skill set and putting them in the position and creating that job. We're not thinking that we have these people with great skill sets and who would be good at a position, where we could evolve the position to that person.

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