Denise Rice, director of Cleveland operations and development at Cormetech, is photographed in her office in the company's manufacturing facility. / Staff photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press

This story was updated at 12:04 p.m. on Monday, June 29, 2020, with more information.

A new workforce development initiative created by the Cleveland-Bradley Chamber of Commerce is encouraging women to pursue careers in the traditionally male-dominated manufacturing industry through partnership with the newly founded Tennessee chapter of the Women in Manufacturing organization.

"There are so many opportunities for women to succeed in the manufacturing industry, but in many cases, there isn't enough guidance to help them get there," said Sherry Crye, director of workforce development at the Cleveland-Bradley Chamber of Commerce.

The initiative — known as "Your Skills, Your Future" —  is three years old and was created to connect students and adults to careers in manufacturing. This new partnership with Women in Manufacturing is the first effort that focuses specifically on females.

Denise Rice, a veteran manufacturing manager who previously headed the Cormetech plant in Cleveland, Tennessee and is now a consultant and manufacturing director for the Tennessee Manufacturers Association, said providing role models and mentors is key to getting more women into factory jobs and dispelling misconceptions about 21st century manufacturing.

Several female leaders have worked the last year to launch the Tennessee chapter of Women in Manufacturing. Companies throughout Bradley County and Hamilton County submitted letters of support to help establish the chapter which had its first meeting as a virtual conference earlier this month.

"There are perceptions that manufacturing is not attractive to women and it's not a place for women to have long and exciting careers," said Rice, who owns the consulting company Peak Performance and will be the facilitator for the new local chapter. "Those perceptions are wrong and we need to continue to dispel those myths and encourage women and girls to pursue a career in manufacturing."

Rice said the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Manufacturing has been actively working to encourage more women into manufacturing jobs for nearly five year and has aligned with the national Women in Manufacturing, which has about 3,000 members across the country.

"They have a chapter in Georgia and a chapter in Kentucky so it just makes sense to add a chapter in Tennessee," Rice said, who kicked off the chapter earlier this month during an online luncheon event.

The local chapter of Women in Manufacturing will work with the Cleveland Chamber's program to connect high school students and underpaid adults to careers in manufacturing.

"At present, only 29 percent of the manufacturing workforce in the country is female," said Crye. "We're proud to be the pioneers of increasing that percentage and making manufacturing an inclusive environment for all, beginning here in our community."


Find out more

* More information about the Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber skill assessment and development program visit

* More information about the trade association Women in Manufacturing and the newly formed Tennessee chapter is available at