Building bridges to diversity
Molly Bakewell Chamberlin is a B2B strategic growth marketing, PR, and business development professional, and a subject matter authority in sensors and electronics. She is the Founder and President of Embassy Global, LLC, a 100% woman-owned consultancy, and a long-time advocate for small businesses, women in tech, and diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI).
With an educational background in marketing and modern languages, Molly’s journey into the electronics industry began rather serendipitously – with the right opportunity coming along at just the right time.
“I’d honestly never envisioned that I’d be doing what I do now. My first job was in PR at a regional chamber of commerce, writing content, supporting research studies, handling press, and promoting special events. That led to a chamber member, a global engineered components manufacturer, taking notice of my work and ultimately extending me a job offer.”
That new offer aligned more closely with Molly’s multilanguage skills and marketing expertise. It also allowed her to gain valuable supervisory experience while travelling the world. Molly accepted the offer.
And so, at age 22, Molly became the global marketing services manager for a $65 million industry manufacturer. And her journey into, what was then, unfamiliar territory began.
“I enjoy learning languages. I saw the industry as another language to be mastered over time. I knew that with dedication and hard work, I could learn, but I understood that my progress or success would never be linear. I’ve made a conscious choice to stay in the industry through both good and 'character building' times. It's why I also sometimes feel uneasy being labelled as an expert. While technically I may fit the definition, I continue to work hard and strive for daily improvement, approaching each day as if it were my first. My industry journey of learning is never-ending; it's a constant pursuit."
Blazing your own trail
Molly began to realise over time that there were limited leadership opportunities for women in the industry, and to be able to advance professionally she would need to create her own path. In 2008 she founded Embassy Global, a consultancy that has since helped over 200 worldwide industry brands to achieve more rapid, stable, and measurable growth.
As an industry small business owner and service provider, Molly recognises the importance of DEI, and she praises electronics industry companies for increasingly acknowledging the tangible benefits that come with having a more diverse workforce.
“I believe that DEI not only helps companies to attract and retain top talent, but it can also help them to strengthen and diversify their customer relationships and product and service offerings.”
One of the biggest challenges Molly has observed for industry companies seeking greater workplace DEI is a lack of qualified candidates meeting desired criteria. A challenge that, given the low numbers of women pursuing careers in the industry, Molly believes will only continue.
“If the goal is to attract and retain a more diverse workforce, companies need to view DEI as not merely a recruitment problem. They need to ensure that they are a DEI-friendly employer. They must be willing to benchmark current internal wage, salary, and benefit structures against industry standards. They need to be willing to identify, address, and resolve gender-based pay disparities, offer flexible working conditions, and be committed to in-house training and mentoring.
“It’s been encouraging to observe the recent efforts of larger industry manufacturers in prioritising DEI within their supply chains and including with a larger number of available small business set-asides.
“However, for manufacturers to achieve desired supply chain diversity, they must also be willing to level the playing field for small businesses with respect to contract and payment terms.
“Overall, the companies that have opted to implement workforce DEI and small business friendly practices, internally and externally, are the ones that I see best positioned for future growth.”
The value of mentorships
“My greatest professional achievement thus far has been starting a small business whose solutions have proven both valuable and cost-effective over time to this industry, and particularly women-, minority-, family-, and veteran-owned small businesses.
“I could not have done it without the support of my industry mentors. They have offered valuable guidance, insights, support, and provide a safe, judgement-free space to openly discuss concerns.
“Good mentors can help boost confidence, build communication skills, and foster a sense of inclusion and belonging. They don’t need to be gender specific. My mentors are mostly male, simply because there are fewer females in the industry. I’ve been lucky to have ‘industry brothers’ as mentors over the last 25 years. They are a valued part of my life, and it’s lovely to now be of assistance to their families in some way, seeing as they were there for me, sometimes when no one else was, and without asking for anything in return. Equally as lovely is seeing their children serve as our interns.”
Molly also believes that “next generation industry talent” should not be defined by chronological age as, “it’s never too late to begin one’s professional journey in the electronics industry.”
“I enjoy reading about the well-deserved professionals on industry ‘30 Under 30’ and ‘40 Under 40’ lists. But how about ‘50 Under 50’s’, and ‘60 Under 60’s?’ I want to learn about the parent who stayed home to raise a family and is now building a career in the electronics industry. Or the retired military veteran who is doing the same at 60. These folks are equally our future, and their life experiences bring significant value to our industry. It is important to challenge all stereotypes, breakdown barriers, and to inspire everyone to pursue their own passions and interests at all ages.”
Looking to the future
When it comes to pursuing a career in the electronics industry, Molly emphasises the importance of hard work and perseverance.
“There is a steep learning curve and no shortcuts to gaining expertise. It is crucial to seek ongoing guidance from more technically and industry experienced colleagues.
“It’s never about being the smartest person in the room. It’s about establishing yourself as an ethical, hardworking, honest team player who is keen to learn. Demonstrate your willingness to listen and be open to new ideas. Don’t hesitate to proactively ask questions, no matter how silly they might seem. Be sure to acknowledge the contributions of your colleagues. Don’t seek to take credit for their ideas or work. Learn to trust your instincts and be confident in offering ideas or perspectives. Network genuinely and authentically.
“If you are in a non-technical role, like marketing, understand that engineering and product management must prioritise new product R&D, customer technical support, and sales for the company’s continued growth. Respect these vital job functions and be patient with their priorities. Learn to build enough time into your own workflows to account for inevitable delays.”
Believe in your value
“Learn to advocate for yourself. Know your worth and never settle for less than what you believe you deserve.
“Remember that everyone brings unique value. Know that engineers of any gender tend to communicate in a more direct and factual manner. This may come across as brusque or abrupt at times. Try not to take it personally and focus solely on the expertise that you are seeking from them. That said, there is a difference between abrupt communication and workplace bullying. Verbal abuse, swearing, mocking, or any form of denigration should never be tolerated.
“If you find yourself in any type of toxic workplace situation, never be afraid to explore new paths. Seek advice from your mentors as trusted sounding boards whenever you might be unsure.
“Remember, you are the architect of your own career. Each person’s professional journey is unique. Avoid comparing yourself, or your progress, to anyone else’s.”