BEACHWOOD, Ohio—Throughout her career in both industry and academia, Judit Puskas experienced firsthand the discrimination females face in the rubber industry.
Even back to university entrance exams in her homeland of Hungary, she saw how entrance standards were lowered for males because the school didn't want a majority of the chemical engineering class to be female.
There even were times she saw her husband, Gabor Kaszas, get preferential treatment over her. In a program at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, there was a position for one doctoral student to work both for the university and the chemistry institute. Puskas interviewed for the spot, along Kaszas—her boyfriend at the time—and one other male.
"There was a grueling interview, and they picked by husband," said Puskas, honored this past spring at the ACS Rubber Division spring meeting as the first female recipient of the Charles Goodyear Medal. "Ten years later, the professor who was collaborating with the University of Akron told me I was the best, but they wanted a boy."
During her career, Puskas said she and Kaszas, who retired last year from Goodyear, always worked well together, but he often got the higher salary and more raises.
"At one time (at Polysar Rubber Corp.) we had the same British boss, and the boss told my husband, 'You know, the thing I like about you is you always speak your mind.' And when the boss wanted to fire me, he said to my husband, 'You know, your wife doesn't know when to shut up.' "
She has several bits of advice for females in academia and industry. First, as Kaszas always emphasized to her, is to document every instance of discrimination. "This is very important," Puskas said. "It is your work, but you actually have it in writing. That has been very helpful."
Next is to know the rules, something she said sometimes works better in industry because strict rules often exist on such issues as termination. "Some managers don't always know the rules," Puskas said. "I was able to succeed because in some cases they didn't follow the rules."
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