For more than a century, the North American rubber industry looked a certain way. It comprised people who looked alike and thought alike, namely white men with backgrounds that afforded them opportunities for education and career mobility.
That's changing. In some ways it may feel as though the change is coming slowly. In others, it may feel rapid. But for those who are driving the change, this feels like the moment to act.
Men and women whose careers have been defined by first and onlys—the first Black male to have this leadership role or the first female to hold a certain title—are working to ensure that they are not the lasts and alones. They have a vision for a more inclusive and diverse industry, and part of that involves their work with the ACS Rubber Division, a leading organization bringing together professionals from around the globe.
When it comes to driving the rubber industry toward a more diverse and inclusive tomorrow, the Rubber Division is leading by example with leaders such as Lakisha Miller-Barclay. Not only did the organization recently choose a Black woman to lead it—Miller-Barclay is the association's executive director and CEO—its staff is made up almost entirely of women.
Miller-Barclay remembers walking into her first Rubber Division meeting 14 years ago and seeing that she was the only woman in a room full of "white, middle-aged men." She was comfortable in the situation because she had been there before.
"I was raised in places where I was the 'only,' " Miller-Barclay said. "I've been used to being the 'only' since I was 6 years old."
She isn't the only in those meetings anymore, because the association has worked to change that.