The Manufacturing Institute Will Honor Betty Baker and Megan Molling of Ashley Furniture Industries

ARCADIA, Wis. - The Manufacturing Institute—the workforce development and education partner of the National Association of Manufacturers—announced it will recognize Betty Baker and Megan Molling of Ashley Furniture Industries (Ashley) with the STEP Ahead Award. The STEP Ahead Awards honor women who have demonstrated excellence and leadership in their careers and represent all levels of the manufacturing industry from the factory floor to the C-suite.

“It is an honor for me to be nominated by Ashley Furniture and to be chosen as an Honoree for the 2021 STEP Ahead awards,” stated Betty Baker, Domestic Casegoods Product Engineer, Ashley Furniture Industries. “I am looking forward to meeting each one of these amazing women at the Gala in Washington DC to hear each of their stories and the impact they have made and continue to make in the fields of manufacturing.”

“Ashley Furniture has many intelligent and talented women helping us meet our vision of being the Best Furniture Company. We couldn’t be more proud to have two of our very own be honored with this prestigious award,” stated Todd Wanek, President & CEO, Ashley Furniture Industries. “Betty and Megan show an outstanding amount of hard work and commitment as leaders in their job and in their communities every day. This recognition is well deserved!”

“I am extremely humbled to receive the Step Ahead Award. Throughout my tenure at Ashley, I have had the opportunity to learn from and grow with so many incredible leaders and team members – many of which have been women. I am extremely proud to be the recipient of the Step Ahead Award and part of an organization that celebrates and empowers women in manufacturing!” stated Megan Molling, Global Supply Optimization Manager, Ashley Furniture Industries.

“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 MI Executive Director Carolyn Lee. “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.”

The STEP Women’s Initiative is the nation’s marquee program to close the gender gap in manufacturing. STEP works to 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. The STEP Ahead Awards honor exceptional women in manufacturing and motivate them to mentor the next generation through an annual awards gala and alumnae programs. The stories of these women and the leadership they show will help inspire next-generation female leaders in manufacturing and support female talent already within the industry. 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.

The biggest challenge facing manufacturers continues to be the growing workforce crisis—the shortage of skilled talent to fill open positions. Manufacturers can close the skills gap by 50% simply by bringing 10% more women into the industry. Women account for about half of the U.S. labor force but represent less than one-third of the manufacturing workforce. STEP Ahead empowers and inspires women in the manufacturing industry. The goal is to build networks for women to have support in their industry and to elevate the role models that can motivate and mentor the next generation.

On Nov. 4, the MI will recognize 130 recipients of the STEP Ahead Awards at a gala in Washington, D.C. The STEP Ahead Awards program will highlight each honoree’s story, including her leadership and accomplishments in manufacturing.


Ashley Furniture Industries, LLC (Ashley) feels that every person deserves more value for their money. Established in 1945, Ashley is the largest manufacturer of home furnishings in the world, and was named one of America’s Best Employers by Forbes in 2021. From design through fulfillment, Ashley is committed to delivering the world’s best home furnishing values, selection and service, and earning the loyalty and trust of its customers every day. Visit Ashley online at www.ashleyfurnitureindustriesllc.com and “like” Ashley Furniture Industries on Facebook.


The Manufacturing Institute grows and supports the manufacturing industry’s skilled workers for the advancement of modern manufacturing. The Manufacturing Institute’s diverse initiatives support all American workers, including women, veterans and students, through skills training programs, community building and the advancement of their career in manufacturing. As the workforce development and education partner of the National Association of Manufacturers, The Manufacturing Institute is a trusted adviser to manufacturers, equipping them with resources necessary to solve the industry’s toughest challenges. For more information, please visit www.themanufacturinginstitute.org.