Pioneering change in manufacturing: Lori Goucher

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In her more than 20 years working at BASF, Lori Goucher has driven change, diversity and inclusion.

Manufacturing has long been a male-dominated industry. The focus on inclusion in the production environment was often a distant concept. However, in the past 20 years, BASF and many other industrial companies have taken steps toward ensuring that women and minorities have a place at the table, and Lori Goucher has been an instrumental part of this change.

Today, Senior Vice President of Process Technology and Investment, Goucher began her career in manufacturing fresh out of college. “Manufacturing was my first choice because I had co-ops and summer internships that exposed me to manufacturing. It was transformative, seeing the impact that you can have on people and on processes working collaboratively with team members. The ideas of many are always better than the ideas of one,” she explains.

Her journey at BASF began with the Professional Development Program (PDP) where, back then, out of 20 participants, only two were women. Today, all programs, including the PDP,  have substantially improved female and minority representation to approximately 50%.

Driving change from within

After more than 30 years in the industry, Lori Goucher was recently inducted into the Women in Manufacturing Hall of Fame, recognizing her “outstanding contributions” to the industry as a leader, mentor, and role model to all women.

“When I walked into my first PDP position with the company someone said to me, ‘Ah, yeah, we've had a woman on the team before. But she didn't last very long.’ For me, that was a battle cry. If you tell me I'm not going to last, I'm going to prove to you that I will last. But for others, it may have scared them away. And that's not what we want to do today. We want to change the environment to one where you don't have to fight your way in or up,” Goucher reflects.

A member of the North American Manufacturing Community Steering Committee since 2014, Goucher was one of the first women to join and the main driver of diversity and inclusion in the body. Today, representation is at 43%, and the committee chairperson, Kristen Pforr, is female.

“This committee sponsors recruitment and development opportunities for females in manufacturing and the population of females in manufacturing has significantly grown through the efforts of this committee. I believe none of the advancements would have occurred if we had not diversified the steering committee,” she explains.

The committee championed big changes across BASF’s network of more than 100 manufacturing sites, some of which are still in the process of implementation, including locker rooms, union facilities, mother rooms, quiet rooms, and gender-neutral bathrooms.

This body also created the Female Leaders Advancing Manufacturing Experience (FLAME) program to help early and mid-career women develop their skills, create a stronger network, and improve their advancement opportunities. The initiative includes workshops, learning events, and mentorship opportunities with business leaders.

However, “you're never going to feel completely included until the culture is there, where every person can be themselves and can feel it's not harmful to speak up,” creating a culture of inclusion is a main focus for the Steering Committee today.



Lori built on her strengths and passions to infuse her life with meaning and purpose. She pursued approaches to help people and processes with this goal in mind. My dear friend is deserving of the WiM Hall of Fame recognition!

Marie Metzger

Retired Vice President of Energy and Verbund Management

The throes of leadership

Stepping into a leadership role poses important challenges. Each one of the steps in the corporate ladder comes with more responsibilities and demands, and this can take a toll on the personal-professional balance.

Adaptive leadership has been a great part of Goucher’s management style and is one of the most efficient ways to get things done. It’s about identifying your focus by clearly identifying your purpose, and what the best outcome should be and then working towards that goal.

For Goucher, leadership can be extremely rewarding. As she explains, “As you grow as a leader, the higher up in the organization you are, the less you do yourself. You get things done through others. So, it's imperative as a leader to be a coach and a mentor, and always be looking to develop the team that you are leading to be even better tomorrow than they are today.

Back when she started, there weren’t many female role models in leadership positions. She had to be her own cheerleader and find her path. 

However, she did find male allies along the way, and later on, she connected with several women, especially now retired Vice President of Energy and Verbund Management, Marie Metzger, who became “a mentor, a coach, and a supporter” and remains a great friend.

The power of association

Sometimes being a woman in an industrial environment can feel lonely. Historically, it wasn’t always easy to find others in similar positions and this is where organizations such as the Women in Manufacturing Association (WIM) play such a key role.

In Goucher’s words, “they're incredibly impactful for women and provide the ability to connect with others outside of their company to learn what other companies are doing. Sometimes you learn just how good BASF is and how far advanced we are. It gives you a higher sense of confidence and at the same time, it gives you new ideas that you wouldn't necessarily learn otherwise.

WIM is also focused on education essential to building the leaders of tomorrow, and helping women become better, stronger leaders to take on more important roles inside the companies they work for.

Having spaces where women can share their common experiences and challenges, discuss motherhood, and find their voice in the workplace, both inside and outside of BASF, are essential to devising new ways of building a more inclusive environment.

To continue building on this foundation, Goucher is planning to become a certified coach to help female and diverse leaders develop and grow. 

Today, only one out of four management positions in manufacturing are held by women, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Goucher wants to change the ratio of women and minorities in manufacturing leadership and considers her own experience a vital asset. 

The future of manufacturing

The manufacturing world is an increasingly inclusive one, but there is still room for improvement. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, while women make up 47% of the American workforce, only 30% work in manufacturing.

Yet, the number of manufacturing jobs will only continue to increase. According to a 2018 report by The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, over the next decade, the industry will have 4.6 million vacancies to fill in America alone. To continue growing and meeting demand, women are key.

For Goucher, focusing on building a more inclusive and diverse environment is essential to attract talent, and to do this the space needs to be inviting and the culture open to new ideas, where people feel like they can be themselves.

Also, education about the opportunities in manufacturing is a major part of capturing and growing talent. The industry isn’t as dirty and manual labor intensive as it was in decades past. There are exciting new opportunities in new areas.  For example, the generations that have grown up as gamers can find in manufacturing a way to use those same digital tools and skills differently.

For those who are just starting in the industry, Goucher recommends not being afraid to be themselves, to stand out, and bring new ideas. “Don't try to fit a mold. Bring your whole person. I bring my heart to my work, and I think there's nothing wrong with that. The more that you can be yourself, the more successful you'll be in whatever you choose to do.



Published on December 5, 2022, by Mariana Licio.

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