Reckon Women’s series on Southern mothers and daughters who share the same profession is part of Reckon’s celebration of Women’s History Month.
Angela Stewart and her daughter, Destini Stewart, try to eat lunch together whenever they can. The two women work at Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Huntsville, Ala. Angela began working at the plant in 2006, when manufacturing was a much more male-dominated industry.
But she worked her way up, and her career inspired her daughter to follow in her footsteps. Destini joined the Toyota workforce seven years ago.
They talked with Reckon about their shared profession and the lessons they’ve learned from each other. Their answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Angela is now a machinist and team leader, building engines at Toyota. She has three children and two grandchildren, and an associate’s degree from Drake State Community & Technical College in applied technology.
Destini is also from Huntsville and works in the plant’s final test area. She has two young children and attended Alabama A&M and Calhoun Community College.
What do you like about working in manufacturing?
Angela: My ex-husband was a carpenter and he never would let me use his tools. But when I came to Toyota, I got trained on all these tools and now I can use them all day long. And there’s room to grow here.
Every day is a different adventure, especially in machining. And you learn every day. I’ve been learning, seems like since I’ve been here. I like to learn, and I like to explore.
Destini: I like that it’s different. You don’t know what to expect on a day-to-day basis. It’s something to look forward to, the unexpected.
What’s one important lesson you learned from your mom?
Destini: One of the most important things I’ve learned from my mom is sometimes it’s OK to stray away from the norm to do what’s best for you. It’s OK if no one else understands. Different is not always a bad thing. I hadn’t heard of a lot of women doing (machining) work like this at the time.
What’s an important lesson you’ve learned from your daughter?
Angela: I’ve learned to trust the decisions your children make. If you instill in them family values, a strong work ethic, and love and kindness towards people, you’ve got to trust what you put into them.
I wanted her to go to college because I didn’t get the chance to live on campus, and I didn’t want my kids to miss out on that. But now with her being as young as she is, 23 and buying her own house, I trust her decision (to pursue a career instead). I think she does really good. I’m proud of her.
How is manufacturing changed for women from when you started?
Angela: The ratio of men to women, back in 2006 when I started, was maybe 3-4 men to maybe 1 woman. But it’s getting much better now. In Destini’s generation, there’s a lot more of a balance.
What have you learned from your mom about being a woman in your profession?
Destini: When she first started (working at Toyota) I was 11, and it was hard to make a change from when I was used to being around my mom more, to where I might not see her (as much). As I got older, I realized a lot of the things she did involved a lot of hard decisions, to make situations better for me and my brothers. I hope one day when my kids get older they’ll look at me the same way I look at her now and I will know my hard work paid off.
What’s something you hope she’s learned from you?
Destini: No matter what situations arise, no matter what adversities you face, you find whatever you have in you that triggers that driving force, and you continue to push until either you’ve done all you can, you’re completely satisfied with the outcome, or until you’ve met the goal you’re trying to accomplish.
Angela: I hope she learns to never give up and never settle. Whatever you do in life, do it the best you can and always do it with pride. There’s never a top. You can always go up. As long as you put the work in, (success) is there for you. Just never give up on it.