ICYMI: “Women can play role in alleviating manufacturing workforce skills gap”

April 16, 2021

Lou Kennedy, owner and CEO of Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp. since 2007, has grown used to being the only woman in a roomful of bankers or lawyers.

“This is a very nontraditional female role. There are not too many of me, a CEO in the pharma or device industry,” said Kennedy, who was elected to the National Association of Manufacturers board in March. “It’s a shame, too, because what we bring to the table, I believe, is a great attention to detail and many other strengths, our emotional intelligence and so forth, really can help move an organization forward.”

Nephron develops and produces generic inhalation solutions and suspension products and operates an outsourcing division that produces pre-filled sterile syringes and IV bags for hospitals across the U.S. Nephron’s certified diagnostics lab has taken a leading role in COVID-19 testing, and the company is operating a vaccine facility in conjunction with Dominion Energy near Nephron’s Saxe-Gotha Industrial Park campus.

That campus is growing through a $215.8 million expansion that will include a vaccine production facility, and Kennedy is in the market for a vaccine production partner as her company continues to broaden the footprint established when its headquarters relocated to West Columbia from Florida in 2017.

Certified by the Small Business Administration as a woman-owned business, Nephron’s workforce is 53% female, Kennedy said.

“We attract other women because we’re living it every day,” she said. “When we’re interviewing, I don’t think about I need a female or a male. I always look for the right person, but I do believe because we have lot of high-energy, great-work-ethic females here, we tend to attract that type of personality in our workforce, and it’s served us well. We’ve had unprecedented growth. We have 42 countries represented here, (and) we all know, the more diverse we are, the more productive we are.”

Kennedy advises women, in manufacturing or any industry, to “be bold and don’t be afraid to fail,” while Boeing’s Leonard encourages women to consider a manufacturing career for reasons that go beyond the job.