Gleason is a global leader in the development and manufacture of production systems for all types of gears, including design software, automation solutions, metrology machines, and related equipment. The company has a unique history of female leaders at the company. Kate Gleason, the founder’s daughter, managed several important leadership roles at Gleason and became the first woman elected to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1914.
Today, Gina Vollmer is part of a new generation of women to shape the company’s future, stepping in as the first female general counsel at Gleason. While the manufacturing industry is teeming with innovation, it is lacking diversity across the industry, with fewer than one-third of manufacturing employees being women.
Moreover, the industry’s Black, Asian, and Latino employees are more likely to suffer from slow career progression according to a Deloitte report. Younger generations are gravitating to other industries based on assumptions that manufacturing might not consistently match their top workplace priorities, but Vollmer hopes to do her part in shedding more light on the career paths and rewarding opportunities available within the industry.
For Vollmer, attracting talent from these demographics and building a pipeline of talent will be one of the keys to tackling the industry’s widening skills gap, as some sources expect US manufacturing to grapple with more than two million unfilled jobs by 2030. To do that, she’s led internal diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at her previous companies and focused on providing organized mentorship as a means to build future pipelines of diverse talent.
Vollmer became a fellow of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, which is made up of more than four hundred corporate chief legal officers and law firm managing partners who aim to build a more diverse legal profession. Through that organization and other volunteer organizations, Vollmer has worked with college students and law students to help them navigate next steps in their careers.
At Gleason, Vollmer has helped empower other women to take on leadership roles and has looked for opportunities to continue to promote diversity in the manufacturing industry. Gleason has recently partnered with the Women in Manufacturing Association—which provides vital networking opportunities, training, and resources—as one way to support diversity efforts.
“This role is a great opportunity to set an example as a female leader and help demonstrate how rewarding and fulfilling careers in manufacturing can be,” she explains. “When I stepped into my role, I wanted to establish myself as a qualified, capable leader and a trusted business and legal advisor, hopefully setting an example for others still developing in their careers.”
As general counsel, Vollmer manages all legal and compliance issues globally for Gleason, where she has been since 2021. In that time, she’s helped adjust team structures, spearheaded efforts to implement technology into her team’s operations and services, and served as the secretary of the board.
Throughout that work, Vollmer maintains a passion for selecting the right people for her team and leading them with an emphasis on inclusion and communication.
“Throughout my career, I have tried to adapt my communication and leadership style and respond to how my team and team members communicate, learn, and work. One approach may not work for everyone,” she says. “I like to take time to sit with my teams, hear their ideas, seek their input on matters, and discuss how I can support them in achieving their goals. Leading a high-performing team requires us to find opportunities for members to feel challenged and fulfilled in what they’re doing.”
Vollmer’s effective leadership style was cultivated through her previous career experiences. After obtaining her MBA and then graduating from Marquette University Law School, she began her legal career in private practice.
Her in-house career began at Caterpillar Inc., where she worked for seven years. For the first five years, she served as a corporate legal counsel supporting the supply chain and logistics business unit, the global antibribery compliance program, risk assessment, and more.
She then moved up to assistant general counsel, serving as the lead counsel for international trade compliance. During her time at Caterpillar, she served as a diversity and inclusion committee lead for the legal department, while also serving on the advisory board of the Women’s Fund of Central Illinois.
She went on to serve as the senior corporate counsel at the Home Depot, providing commercial transaction and regulatory support for the supply chain, transportation, and logistics business units.
In both those organizations, Vollmer says she learned to be curious to seek challenges that would help her growth. She made an effort to get involved in different kinds of projects and seek challenges inside and outside her group, which explains her decorated résumé and well-rounded legal background.
“If I felt like I wasn’t in a position that allowed me to learn and grow in one way or another, then I maybe wasn’t in the right role,” she says. “Focusing on learning and taking on new challenges in my career has served me well in my current role as general counsel. There is a plethora of legal issues that can arise when supporting a global business, but my past experiences have helped me quickly navigate these issues and strategize a plan forward if there are issues of first impression for me.”
Vollmer also learned how it is not only crucial to have strong leaders but leaders who are interested in developing their team. “Engaging my team is not only critical for their own development and job satisfaction, but important [that] we seek that diversity of thought to ensure we are deriving pragmatic solutions in the best interests of the company.”
Throughout our 180-year history, Foley has served as the go-to trusted advisor to manufacturing companies as they have grown and innovated. Today our manufacturing team continues to find creative solutions to assist you through challenges at every point in your business evolution.