AKRON—Terry DeLapa chose one word as the theme for her tenure as chair of ACS Rubber Division.
“We're an energetic group,” she said of the 2,130-member organization, “but we have to stay vital if we're going to survive.”
Now, thanks to DeLapa, the group can call itself diverse, too.
When she succeeded Doug Ruch at the end of 2014, DeLapa, the sales manager for the Eastern region for Alpha Technologies Inc., became the first female chair in the 106-year history of the Akron-based Rubber Division.
That fact was difficult for DeLapa to comprehend. When Ed Miller, executive director of the organization, informed DeLapa of her place in history, she didn't believe it. She asked that it be verified.
“They brought me a list,” she said. “I was surprised ... I thought something got missed over the years.”
Breaking a gender barrier in a male-dominated industry was not in her thought process when she first joined the Rubber Division in 1989, nor in 2010, when she was elected to the Steering Committee and began her ascent up the organizational ladder.
“I'm honored,” she said, “but I didn't want to do this just because I'll be the first woman (chair). It's just a passion I have for participating in the division. So I'm proud, but I want to make sure it doesn't end there.”
“When I first came into the division 15 years ago, the industry was pretty much a (male-dominated) outfit,” Miller said. “Over the last 15 years, I've seen that change. You see a lot of younger people, both young men and women. And you start to see a lot more female leaders emerge. It's important for us as a division to recognize that.
“As the industry changes, the division needs to change.”