(From the April 30, 2012, issue of Rubber & Plastics News)
AKRON—You're invited to participate in Phase 3 of two stories we're working on—women in the rubber industry, and the aging population of people in the business.
What are phases 1 and 2? The first is when we come up with an idea, the second when we consider how to chase it. Phase 3 is the start of the information-gathering process.
I just invented all those phases, by the way. Creating a news or feature story really is a very chaotic process.
The women in the rubber industry idea actually is a followup of a series of articles we published 13 years ago. We believed there were relatively few women in the rubber industry in a position of power, and the premise proved to be correct, both statistically and anecdotally. Women who actually did call the shots at companies were an oddity.
Today? I don't know—offhand I'd say things haven't changed much in this business. I still don't see a woman running a tire company or the ACS Rubber Division (although there is one climbing the ladder to the “chair” spot—the division's nod to the perceived sexism of the title “chairman”).
I do know of some women who are or have been in charge of smaller rubber product operations, and there seem to be more in the driver's seat on the supply side of the business. There certainly are a number of very accomplished females in polymer research at universities. But that's my perception, not based on facts, and we'll let the fact-gathering process determine what's true.
How can you, the reader, participate? Tell us of women who are success stories in the business. And tell us where they slammed into a glass ceiling that won't budge.
The story on the aging population of rubber industry people—well, that idea just popped into my own aging head one day. I imagine its genesis is the many stories we've written about the need for fresh blood in the industry, and efforts to lure young people into the field by trade and technical groups, companies and universities.
My first week on the job at this publication—I was 29 years old—I attended a rubber industry convention. I looked around and all I could see were “old white guys,” with a few, very few, women sprinkled in, mostly junior sales reps and people working for the organization running the meeting.
Now, at the same conference, I see—mostly old white guys, a few women, maybe more from the technical side, plus women working for the organization.
What's changed? I don't know, but I intend to find out.
This is a very open-ended invitation. I have ideas on how to pursue the subject, but I'd like to hear your answer to the general questions, “Is the rubber industry overpopulated with aging warriors, and not attracting enough young people? And if so, why is that and where is it heading.”
Email me your thoughts on either (or any) subject at [email protected]
Noga is the editor of Rubber & Plastics News.