Like many old-time manufacturing sectors, the rubber industry rightly was looked on as a "good old boys" club for decades. While at most gatherings the vast majority of attendees are still males, there's evidence that the numbers may be a bit closer than in years past.
But more importantly there are a number of initiatives within the industry that are tangible proof there is important work going on to not only spotlight the accomplishments of women, but also help to draw more females into all areas of the business.
In 2017, NAHAD, the association for hose distributors and manufacturers, started its Women in NAHAD initiative, or WIN for short. Karen Brandvold, vice president and chief financial officer for Omni Services Inc., an industry distributor, was preparing to serve as the first female president of NAHAD when it dawned on her how few females actually were involved in the hose manufacturing and distribution sector.
She saw it as an opportunity to engage the under-served female members of NAHAD and show other women that it was an industry they could succeed in.
Now, the ACS Rubber Division has started WORD, for Women of the Rubber Division. The group planned a pre-conference workshop to kick off the effort at the International Elastomer Conference in Cleveland. There obviously was a demand for such a workshop, as its sold out weeks before the Oct. 7 event.
The Rubber Division has had its share of women making their mark. Terry DeLapa of Alpha Technologies was the first woman chair of the association back in 2015, and Kim Dempsey-Miller of Pilot Products will lead the organization in 2021. Most recently, the division selected Lakisha Miller-Barclay, on staff at the association for 12 years, to succeed Ed Miller as executive director when he retires Jan. 15.
Of course, these activities will help build on the work of the many trailblazing women who have made their mark in the industry for years. Women like Maria Ellul, a longtime scientist at ExxonMobil Chemical who won the Rubber Division's Sparks-Thomas Award in 1997 and its Chemistry of Thermoplastic Elastomers honor in 2005. Or Whitney Luckett, founding president of Southland Rubber USA.
And other women like Brandvold, who have taken key roles in the family businesses. Like Deena Campana, who just assumed the role of president at Vip Rubber & Plastics Inc.
These are just a few of examples of achievements that, given the current initiatives, will be much more common in the rubber industry's future.