Women Leading the Charge in Specialty Chemical Manufacturing

Role of Women in the Specialty Chemical industry Continues to Evolve

Even though the chemical industry remains a male-dominated sector, employing on average just 15-20 percent women, these ladies are playing an increasingly important role in determining the direction of the industry and the success of the companies they work for. In this edition of the SOCMA Member Spotlight, we are highlighting the experiences of six women who are making a difference. They talk about their perspectives of the chemical industry, share their thoughts on the future of women in the sector, and provide valuable advice for young women just starting their careers.

Members

Beth Bosley, Founder and CEO, Boron Specialties

Beth Bosley, CEO and Founder, Boron Specialties, Inc.Bosley started her career in the biotech industry, where she worked for two years prior to taking her first job in the fine chemicals sector. In 2010, after 20 years in the chemical industry working in research and development, manufacturing,  technical sales and marketing, and regulatory affairs, she founded Boron Specialties in order to meet a market need for chemicals, materials and applications that leverage the specific properties of boron. The innovation-driven specialty chemical maker specializes in the commercialization of new boron-based technologies for life science, electronics, energy and other applications through product and process development, market development, product safety and regulatory compliance management. Located in Pittsburgh, PA, Boron Specialties employs eight people, including Bosley.

She attributes her attraction to chemistry to wonderful high school chemistry, physics, biology and math teachers who introduced her to the value of chemistry and the opportunities it represents.

Bosley is a recipient of the President’s Leadership Award for Excellence in Advocacy. She is a champion of Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) reform, having testified before Congress multiple times on behalf of SOCMA and specialty chemical manufacturers. She is also a member and former chair of SOCMA’s Chemical Risk Management Committee.

Arienne P. Brint, VP, Government & Public Affairs North America, Solvay

Arienne Brint, Vice President, Government & Public Affairs, SolvayBrint oversees Solvay’s U.S. government relations group, which is responsible for policy development, federal and state advocacy, employee engagement, and supervision of the Solvay political action committee (PAC). Solvay, with its head office in Neder-Over-Heembeek, Brussels, Belgium, is one of SOCMA’s largest member companies with more than 30,000 employees worldwide. Prior to this position, Brint served as Senior Director of Business Development at Corrections Corporation of America, a company that builds private prisons. Before entering the corporate world, Brint worked as an attorney for Jones Day and Adams & Reese, where she utilized her Harvard Law School degree. She has a bachelor’s degree in business administration in business honors and finance from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin.

Brint was drawn to the chemical industry because it presented an opportunity to work with articulate, educated and ambitious people who maintain the ability to work collaboratively within and across companies, such as through trade associations like SOCMA. During the last eight years of working in government affairs, she found her background in finance and law has helped her on many occasions.

Brint serves on SOCMA’s Board of Governors and is highly involved in SOCMA’s advocacy efforts, including serving on the Government Relations Steering Committee and International Trade Committee.

Kate Donahue, President & CEO, Hampford Research, Inc.

Kate Donahue, President, Hampford Research, Inc.Donahue became President & CEO of Hampford Research, Inc. (HRI) in 2007 when her father, Jack Hampford, who founded the company, passed away. HRI is a specialty chemical manufacturer and an integral part of multiple, hi-tech supply chains. Although she had served on the Board of Directors for 10 years, Donahue’s 20-plus years of work experience was in the cable television industry. Originally intending to move the company to a new location and then sell it, she found it had serious operational and financial challenges that needed to be addressed. She has spent the last nine years turning the company around financially, creating a new corporate culture and positioning the firm for long-term growth. Hampford, located in Stratford, CT, has 35 employees.

Donahue serves on SOCMA’s Board of Governors and is a recipient of SOCMA’s President’s Leadership Award for Excellence in Advocacy, as well as the Connecticut Technology Council’s 2013 Small Business Innovation & Leadership Award.

From testimony on Capitol Hill to participating in roundtable discussions at national meetings to meetings with regulatory officials, Donahue has represented SOCMA and its members on key issues impacting specialty chemical manufacturing, including the Department of Homeland Security’s Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS).

Ella Iott, Director, EHS, AMPAC Fine Chemicals, LLC

Ella Iott, EHS Manager, AMPAC Fine ChemicalsIott has worked in chemical, food and paper manufacturing for more than 30 years. She initially wanted to go into medicine, but switched to chemical engineering during an industry push to attract more females to science and engineering careers. Her strong interactive skills found her working more in the management side of manufacturing, and along the way she found her niche in environmental, health and safety. She credits her success to the fact that she likes the work, and it requires a unique merging of technical and behavioral skills, including building trust, understanding complex technical information, and sharing information in a way that people can understand.

Iott’s work experiences include top companies that have varying management styles, including a top-down approach, a more level, self-directed team structure, and a command-and-control philosophy. She found the more level structure provided the best collaborative and successful environment for significant change, and the most personal fulfillment. Ella currently serves as EHS Director at AMPAC Fine Chemicals, a specialty chemical manufacturer in Rancho Cordova, CA, which employs 463 people.

As an EHS Director, Iott is an active member of SOCMA’s ChemStewards program and has served as a panelist at the ChemStewards National Chemical Safety Symposium, where she shared best practices and discussed process safety challenges for small and mid-sized chemical companies.

Caroline Sghibartz, Business Development Manager, Bimax

Caroline Sghibartz, Business Development Manager, BimaxSghibartz accepted her current position with Bimax, a specialty chemical manufacturing company with 80 employees, in January 2015. But Sghibartz is not new to the company or the industry; she worked closely with her father as an intern at Bimax since she was 16, and at age 18 she became a dangerous goods safety adviser (DGSA) in the European sales office. Although she pursued a college degree in geology, ultimately Sghibartz felt it was a natural progression to work at Bimax with her father and sister.

As Business Development Manager, Sghibartz is responsible for forming new relationships with potential customers and ensuring current customers are satisfied with the products and services they receive.

To introduce her to SOCMA and its advocacy efforts, Sghibartz joined her father for SOCMA’s 2015 Washington Fly-In. She also participates in trade shows and takes advantage of other networking opportunities SOCMA has to offer.

Mara Gliozzi, Global Business Manager, Specialty Chemicals, McGean

Mara Gliozzi, Global Business Manager for Specialty Chemicals, McGeanGliozzi has worked in the chemical industry for 32 years, all with McGean, a specialty chemical manufacturer near Cleveland, OH, that employees almost 100 people. She started as a summer intern and stayed with the company from that point on. During those years, the family owned organization has gone through several iterations, but has always valued its employees and worked diligently to provide a supportive work environment that encourages success.

Throughout her career at McGean, Gliozzi has worked in a variety of jobs, from sales and marketing to purchasing and customer service. She currently is the only woman on McGean’s executive staff, but has never experienced any difficulties within the company or during external interactions with customers and suppliers because she is a woman.

Gliozzi is actively involved in SOCMA, taking advantage of advocacy, educational and networking opportunities, including the Washington Fly-In, Annual Dinner and Committee Week, among others.

Looking at the numbers

Overall, and despite different company sizes, the percentage of women employed by chemical manufacturers appears to be fairly consistent at 15-20 percent. The highest companywide level appears to be 30 percent at Bosley’s company, Boron Specialties, but she has only eight people working for her, including herself.

The numbers tend to be higher in certain departments, such as sales and marketing, purchasing, customer service, finance and EH&S, and lowest in the plant and research labs. In the former, the percentages of men and women are often close to if not equal.

The results are not due to a lack of interest in hiring women across all company positions. Companies look for qualified prospective employees, regardless of gender or race, and many, such as Solvay, are actively looking to increase diversity in their firms.

“I have noticed that women tend to gravitate to regulatory, quality, marketing and customer service type positions, possibly because it is more feasible to take time off and/or work part time when they have children,” Bosley said. “The fact that women often want time off cannot be ignored; it does impact their career progression,” she adds. Donahue also recognizes that many jobs in the plant are very physically demanding and require certain capabilities that many women may not have, or simply may not want to pursue.

Industry perspectives

Women who work in the industry have a very positive view of the sector if the perspectives of the six women interviewed for this story are representative. In most cases that positive viewpoint applies at the company and industrywide levels.

Gliozzi has helped grow McGean’s contract manufacturing business and proprietary technology portfolio and, in the process, continually learned from the people at customer organizations. “Most sales people don’t really get to know their customers to such an in-depth degree, and that experience has been very rewarding. I enjoy coming to work every day and working with my col- leagues both within and outside of the company,” she said. Similarly, Iott appreciates the ongoing open dialogue that occurs between the highly diverse workforce found in the chemical industry. Working with highly innovative people and companies is also a big positive for Bosley.

The impact of the chemical industry on society is a positive factor for many of the women. “The chemical industry is such a fascinating business; chemistry is involved in every aspect of daily life,” Donahue said.

In addition to being a product of the contributions the chemical industry and Solvay make to society, Brint also finds the business to be very dynamic and challenging and a constant source for learning. Dealing with a continuously evolving group of customers who have widely varying needs in terms of chemical structures is exciting for Sghibartz. “It is very rewarding to be part of the process that, in the end, provides customers with compounds they need to make their own products that will ultimately meet some need,” she explains.

Brint also believes the industry in general is fairly good at taking seriously the need for a balance between work and personal life seriously. “Most companies provide flexibility and understanding in this area,” she notes. Both Bosley and Sghibartz also appreciate the experiences gained by working in a small company. “There are always new problems to solve and often require every individual to develop skills and abilities in multiple areas, which can be quite challenging but also very satisfying,” Bosley said. For Sghibartz, it is very rewarding to see how quickly solutions can be developed by small chemical companies.

There are also positives on the company level for Gliozzi. The management at McGean is really focused on making sure everyone at the company has what he/she needs to do the best they can on a continual basis. “That approach provides real incentive to come to work. It makes people want to give extra when needed. It is wonderful to work in an environment where everyone contributes willingly to achieve success,” she said.

Finally, Bosley appreciates that, for the most part, when dealing with technical people in the chemical industry, it doesn’t matter who you are, but what you know. “If you know the chemistry or engineering behind a particular issue and are technically competent, your skills and abilities will be valued,” she said.

On the negative side, there is a general concern about the poor perception the public has of the chemical industry and the basic lack of understanding of how dependent the way of life for people today is on products made by the chemical industry. Poor regulations and the large quantity of regulations are other negatives, particularly for smaller manufacturers.  The fact that the chemical industry runs very lean can also create a difficult environment in which to work; while it means there is a lot of autonomy, resources are limited and the responsibility level is very high. Men and women both have to be aware of and able to work under such conditions.

Bright future for women

Although there are a few lingering left-over, old-school attitudes about women working in the chemical industry, there is a lot to feel good about with respect to where women are now in the sector, according to Iott. In fact, all six women have a very positive out- look for the continued advancement of women in the sector.

“I do see increasing recognition that women are equally as smart and capable as men. There are a lot of opportunities for women who have knowledge of systems thinking and awareness of how parts fit together to make the whole picture,” said Iott. Her approach is to treat everyone – employees, bosses, etc. – as customers because each individual is only as successful as the employees who work for him/her. She also takes careful notes at each meeting in order to not only document discussions, which helps prevent repeated efforts, but also share the information with others. One-on-one discussions are an important part of her management style. “It is important to explain to people what I am thinking and why I do what I do. When people understand your motivations and positions, it is much easier for them to get on board,” she explains.

There are also opportunities for women to make a difference simply because there are so few of them. “Women have more visibility; because they stand out, they can take the opportunity to make a difference if they are willing to embrace the idea of doing so,” Donahue said. That also includes having the potential to evangelize about the industry itself and its impact on society. She also notes that the business opportunities are endless for women in the chemical industry. “There is something for everybody – chemistry, engineering, equipment, environmental health and safety management, marketing, quality management, and much more. The opportunities are particularly great for people with analytical skills and the ability to interact with people.”

It is important, though, to recognize that women don’t need to be given any mandate to be successful in the chemical industry, according to Bosley. “Companies do, however, need to recognize subtle biases do exist and monitor for their appearance and work to eliminate them.” She gives as an example the tendency for women to get lower performance reviews than men. “If these subtle biases can be identified and eliminated, then the playing field will be equal, and I believe women can compete successfully and have similar career progressions as men,” she said.

“I am definitely encouraged about the future of women in the chemical industry,” says Brint. “The roles women are playing at Solvay and in the industry as a whole are expanding. There are increasing numbers of women CEOs, and women are now on the SOCMA board.”

The one hurdle all six women point to is the difficulty in attracting women to the industry. Although as many women are majoring in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees as men, fewer are interested in joining the chemical sector. “More needs to be done to make the chemical industry attractive to women who are looking to enter the workforce,” Brint said.

Chemical manufacturing is an $800 billion industry, and according to SelectUSA, it is also one of the top exporting sectors of all U.S. manufacturing.  It is projected that the chemical industry will continue to grow, and women need to be at the forefront of its trajectory.

As leaders like Beth Bosley, Arienne Brint, Kate Donahue, Mara Gliozzi, Ella Iott and Caroline Sghibartz continue to break the mold and shatter glass ceilings, SOCMA will continue to help promote inclusion and diversity within the chemical industry. SOCMA recently added three outstanding female leaders, including Donahue, Brint and Sandy Cernick, Head of Global Marketing at Siegfried USA, LLC, to its board, proving the tides are shifting within the industry, and women will be there helping lead the way.

A few words of advice

For all the young women who have chosen to work in the chemical industry, our six interviewees offer a range of advice for achieving real success.

  • Don’t be daunted by the science or the industry; people are willing to help.
  • Find a mentor or two who you can talk to about opportunities and turn to for help on any issue.
  • Don’t be satisfied with the status quo; there is still work to be done to push the glass ceiling higher, and young women need to build on the efforts made by the women who came before them
  • Be a good and active listener, and listen to what is and isn’t being said; allow others a chance to speak; communication skills are crucial.
  • Seek out successful people; learn everything you can about the entire business; ask questions until you understand; by asking for help, you get buy-in from others and have knowledge to show to management.
  • Learn how to collaborate to solve problems.
  • Be a good team player, and actively participate in team meetings; when you have gained enough knowledge, take on the role of team leader.
  • Look and act the part.
  • Before you even enter the workforce (high school and college), reach out to companies and pursue internship opportunities to gain a practical understanding and, perhaps, line up a job before you even finish school.
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