Elizabeth Umberson

2020 STEP Ahead Honoree

Vice President, Materials Management
ZF North America, Inc.

People should be passionate about manufacturing. It is a cornerstone of the global economy. Employees within a company collaborate to design, prepare, sell and manufacture a product.  It is exciting to see the entire creative process result in a tangible product; and nothing has the multiplying effect on jobs that manufacturing does.

Elizabeth has contributed for over 25 years to the success of ZF, a top global automotive supplier.  In 1999, she became the company’s first female plant manager at its facility in Gainesville, Georgia, where her expertise helped pave the way into leadership roles for other women in the company. In 2010, when ZF diversified, Elizabeth was charged with establishing a production facility for wind turbine gearboxes. Given two years and a $100 million budget, she led a team that secured suppliers, identified a location, hired 230 employees and successfully launched a high-quality product that led the industry in reliability for wind turbine gearboxes. Most recently, after ZF’s TRW acquisition, she played a key role in the successful integration of materials management in North America—a challenging task that required a complete change within both organizations.

As a female leader in the automotive industry, Elizabeth is committed to growing diversity and believes that a diverse workforce delivers better results and capitalizes on different ideas, perspectives, viewpoints and experiences. Elizabeth has mentored employees for years, often focusing on young women. She is a frequent guest speaker at internal leadership development programs and participates in a company program that pairs leaders up with high-potential employees. Elizabeth also is active in ZF’s Women’s Resource Group, which provides resources and facilitates peer-to-peer support for more than 550 participants in the Detroit area.

As a plant manager in Georgia, Elizabeth established a culture of giving and led her employees by example, serving on the boards of several non-profits, including the United Way, the Northeast Georgia Health Systems and the Chamber of Commerce. Today, to further encourage giving throughout the company, she supports ZF Gives, which includes both grant-giving and employee giving days, where employees volunteer on projects such as a Habitat for Humanity house, an experience that benefits everyone involved.