Since 2015, Plastics News has been highlighting women in the industry with the special report Women Breaking the Mold. We introduced the founders and engineers to presidents and plant managers – all with unique experiences and stories to tell.
Rhoda Miel, PN’s deputy editor-in-chief, said, “Too often we are still seen as an exception rather than a regular part of the workforce at all levels.” Countless nominees have said that they were often the only or one of the few women in their workplace.
Theresa Healy, general manager of Reedy International, said she remembered going to conferences and feeling intimidated.
Healy told a story about taking part in a customer test and the engineer she met looked down at her and said, “When is your technician going to show up so we can start?” She replied, “Sir, this technical ‘guy’ is me.”
“It wasn’t until I was working with him on the machine, explaining my foam experience and background, and showing him how our products work, that he apologized to me for assuming I wasn’t technical enough,” she said.
Barbara Walker, Senior Director of Global IT Operations, Security, Privacy at Avient Corp [few] Female.”
“When I was getting my PhD seven pretty tough years later, there were only three graduates in our class that day, all women, and I was one of them,” said Walker.
At the management level, women are clearly in the majority. According to a report by McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn.org, out of 100 men promoted to managers, only 85 are women. Broken down even further, that number is only 71 for Latinas and 58 for black women. At the beginning of 2020, women held 38 percent of management positions, men 62 percent.
In the consumer goods industry, 30 percent of C-suite positions are women. In mechanical engineering and industrial manufacturing, according to the McKinsey and LeanIn reports, only 16 percent of management positions in the C-suite are women.
And with the coronavirus pandemic, even fewer women are working. This is the first time that the study found that women were more likely to retire than men. (In previous years of the study, it was found that men and women were leaving their companies at similar rates.)
NPR reported that more than 2 million women left the workforce in 2020. Of the workers who left the workforce in September 2020, 865,000, or 80 percent, were women, including 324,000 Latinas and 58,000 black women, according to the National Women’s Law Center and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In this month alone, four times more women than men left working life.
Women face the challenges of childcare – with so many children having virtual classrooms in the past year – housework and burnout, in addition to job losses in female-dominated industries like hospitality.
However, some progress is being made for women in the workforce. The Fortune 500 broke three records for their annual list in 2021, which lists the largest companies in the United States. While this has come a long way since the three women who were on the list 10 years ago, there is still much work to be done to increase that 8.2 percent.
Second, two black women are named for the first time, Roz Brewer from Walgreens Boots Alliance and Thasunda Brown Duckett from TIAA. Third, CVS Health’s Karen Lynch is the 4th highest-ranking company led by a female CEO.
This edition of PN celebrates the women who are rule breakers – and glass ceiling breakers. For this year’s special report, we had a record number of submissions and nominations. We have portrayed 50 women who have already made significant contributions, who will continue to make a difference in the years to come and have changed the industry for the following.
Since we couldn’t fit all of the achievements on these pages, there’s more to see online, where we’ve added some Q&A with this year’s makers.
And don’t forget to sign up for the Women Breaking the Mold Networking Forum 2021, taking place November 11-12 in Austin, Texas. The event includes speakers, workshops, and networking for young professionals with industry veterans to help the plastics industry grow.
Jordan Vitick is the Special Project Editor at Plastics News.