AKRON—It's no secret that the rubber industry continues to be a male-dominated business, not unlike other industrial sectors.
But it's also clear that women are playing an increasingly larger role in all areas of the rubber business, from the board room to technical, sales and marketing roles, among others.
And to demonstrate this trend, the ACS Rubber Division is holding a Women's Pre-conference Workshop on the afternoon of Oct. 7, the day prior to the opening of the Oct. 8-10 International Elastomer Conference at the Huntington Convention Center in Cleveland.
The title of the workshop is "WORDs Matter: How the Women of the Rubber Division can Connect, Collaborate & Communicate with Confidence."
WORD is an acronym for "Women of the Rubber Division," said Gretchen Cermak, the Rubber Division's director of marketing and communications. She quipped that around the division's office in Akron, they often refer to the staff members as the "Women of the Rubber Division—and Chuck," referring to Chuck Brady, the lone male of the association's eight staff members.
Cermak said the idea for the workshop originated back when Terry DeLapa of Alpha Technologies was the first woman chair of the association back in 2015. The division put out a call for photos of women in the rubber industry, and at the next IEC made a large sign featuring all the pictures. It also was turned into a PowerPoint presentation that ran in the Expo Theater for the week.
"When the women saw it, they loved it," Cermak said. "The response to the photos and the PowerPoint just sat with us. We do need to embrace the women of this industry even more. It's very apparent this is a male-dominated industry. But let's celebrate the women. So we decided, let's offer a workshop."
The structure of the inaugural half-day session will be simple. There will be a panel discussion that will include: DeLapa; Kim Dempsey-Miller of Pilot Products, who will be division chair in 2021; Tina Darnell of Struktol Co. of America; Krista Toutant of R.D. Abbott Co. Inc.; and a representative from Smithers, which is the presenting sponsor of the workshop.
The workshop will be facilitated by Leslie Ungar, a communications specialist based in the Cleveland area. And it will be capped by a wine and cheese reception for the final hour.
This year the workshop is being offered exclusively to women, but that could change in the future. "That's not to say once we do this first one, we may see the benefits of allowing men to come, or having them sit on a panel for another perspective," Cermak said.