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Meet Impact Washington's First Female Board of Directors Chair, Kelley Sowards

Wednesday, April 19, 2023 | News Release, Workforce Development, Her Story, All

March was Women’s History Month. The National Women’s History Alliance, which spearheaded the movement to recognize the month, has announced the women’s history theme for 2023 as “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.” Impact Washington is dedicated to sharing the stories of women within its organization in honor of that declaration.

As a busy woman in business and leadership, Kelley Sowards knows first-hand the challenges many people face. She has a refreshing take on how to deal with it:

“Cut yourself slack.”

“Being a superhero isn’t sustainable,” she said. “If you need to make room for sleep, or family time, or personal time, it is important to do so.”

Sowards, of Mount Vernon, became the Impact Washington-NIST MEP Board of Directors Chair in April. She is the first female to assume this role. She also is the Head of Business Operations and Quality at Eviation Aircraft in Arlington.

She was first acquainted with Impact Washington as a client in 2010 and became a board member in 2016. 

"While being a superhero is indeed a tall order, working with Impact Washington to help streamline operations is a positive step forward any company can take to become more efficient," she said.

“In 2010, I joined a small manufacturer designing and producing scientific instrumentation in Eastern Washington,” she said. “Our team aimed to implement ISO 9001, and we were delighted to have an Impact Washington resource stress test our ideas and processes as we prepared for a successful implementation and first audit.” 

She continued to work with Impact Washington for more than a decade, relying on it to match her business with resources on various projects as it grew and changed. Impact Washington helped develop management systems, lean manufacturing practices, and strategic planning and management changes.

She was thrilled when she was invited to join the board to give back. 

“What I like most about serving on the board of directors is that I get to participate in planning for the long-term success of the organization,” she said.  “Besides a standard oversight function, the board of directors looks to understand the latest trends and issues facing small and mid-size businesses and focuses on recruiting new board members with fresh, diverse perspectives.”

She wants more businesses to learn about Impact Washington and take advantage of its “top-notch” consulting and training services available to even the smallest manufacturers at a reasonable price.

“This makes all the difference for continuity, where on our own projects might have been one-and-done as we could afford them,” she said. “With Impact Washington, we had a long-term partner who understood where we had been and where we were going.”

Just like the business world it serves, Impact Washington continues to grow and change with the times. Sowards is honored to be part of it.

“Impact Washington continues to deliver many tried-and-true core services, such as lean and ISO, and new ones, such as cyber security, post-covid supply chain support, workforce solutions, and food safety.”

When she entered the workforce, she wasn’t aware of the opportunities in manufacturing for women. She invites other women to consider it. “Whether your interest stems from production, engineering, human resources, or sales, I encourage women not to be shy about exploring the options,” she said. “For seasoned businesswomen, I encourage us to share these pathways with younger people and to mentor young women when we can, formally or informally.”

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