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DENSO Engineer Earns STEP Ahead Award

On Nov. 4, The Manufacturing Institute will recognize Denise Carlson among this year’s 130 award recipients in D.C.


Amy Antenora has been reporting on the automotive aftermarket since 2002.

DENSO has announced that The Manufacturing Institute – the workforce development and education partner of the National Association of Manufacturers – will recognize Denise Carlson with a STEP Ahead Award. Carlson, vice president of DENSO’s North American Production Innovation Center and the company’s executive lead of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I), will be honored alongside other women who have demonstrated excellence and leadership in their manufacturing careers. Winners represent all levels of the industry, from the factory floor to the C-suite.


Under Carlson’s leadership, DENSO has expanded its D&I efforts, implementing resources to give people with dynamic backgrounds, including women, the support necessary to succeed. This has included the creation of a D&I Council and business resource groups, which collaborate to foster more welcoming work environments; leadership training; and cultural education initiatives.

“As an engineer, I believe diversifying talent is important as it allows us to develop new ideas from different perspectives and bring innovation to the forefront of everything we do. Women are critical to this process,” Carlson said. “I’m proud to be honored among other industry leaders, who I admire for their strength and talents, and am eager to continue to grow DENSO’s D&I efforts and ensure opportunity for all.”


One of the biggest challenges facing manufacturers is the shortage of skilled talent to fill open positions, particularly as it relates to women – women account for about half of the U.S. labor force but represent less than one-third of the manufacturing workforce. Manufacturers can close the skills gap by 50% simply by bringing 10% more women into the industry. The STEP Ahead Awards are designed to help foster a 21st-century manufacturing workforce by empowering and inspiring women in the manufacturing industry through recognition, research and leadership, as well as by motivating alumnae to pay it forward by mentoring the next generation. In the program’s first five years, STEP Ahead Award winners impacted more than 300,000 individuals—from peers in the industry to school-age children.


“Women in manufacturing proved themselves time and time again after the pandemic began, leading our industry in innovation and progress. We will honor these manufacturing leaders with the STEP Ahead Awards, elevating their success and granting them a platform to inspire the next generation of women manufacturing leaders,” said Carolyn Lee, executive director of The Manufacturing Institute. “The skills gap persisted throughout the pandemic, but our STEP Ahead honorees will help us fight it – they’ll play a crucial role in bringing more talented, motivated women into manufacturing. We’re confident these honorees will serve as living proof that women can dare to dream of a fulfilling, rewarding career in the industry.”


On Nov. 4, The Manufacturing Institute will recognize Carlson among this year’s 130 STEP Ahead Award recipients at a gala event in Washington, D.C. Each honoree’s story will be highlighted, including their leadership and accomplishments in manufacturing.



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