Back in May, when I wrote a column introducing plans for our Women in Plastics special report, I was a little nervous about how our readers would react — especially the women.
I've been part of the plastics industry for nearly 25 years. But that doesn't make me an expert on the current state of women's roles in plastics. I trust my judgment on news, but wanted to make sure that column set the right tone.
From the beginning of this project, I sought input from the women in Plastics News' editorial staff box. They helped put together the survey questions, offered suggestions for women we would profile, and planned how we would present the information that we collected.
They helped edit that column too, and offered suggestions for a couple of good additions.
Then we turned it over to our readers, and the result was outstanding. I got lots of nice feedback on the column, and it had the desired effect: we got dozens of nominations and suggestions of leading women in the industry that we could profile.
Now the project is finished and you're reading the results — 24 profiles of some very interesting women in the plastics industry. There's a wide range of ages — all the way up to 83 — and a variety of titles and experience levels.
The majority of the profiles you'll read in this issue were written by women — both our staff reporters and correspondent Jeannie Reall. But in an important way, they're all written by women, because so much of the profiles are in the subjects' own words.
I'm really pleased with that.
We didn't set out to preach to readers about how women are treated in the plastics industry, or whether they have opportunities for progress beyond the glass ceiling. We let the women themselves talk about those things — and many more topics.
What we ended up with makes for entertaining reading.
I know a few of the women we profiled, but I learned more about them from their stories. And I found myself reading about many of the others thinking, “We should write more about this person,” or “this person should speak at one of our conferences,” or “I'd like to visit this company.”
So what did we learn about women in plastics as a result of this project?
We discovered quite a few CEOs and vice presidents and others in leadership positions — and many future leaders too.
We found out that many are fiercely loyal to their companies, their employees, and their families too. Many told us how they've balanced career and family, sometimes through bumpy times and personal challenges.
They're also big fans of the plastics industry. As a rule, they're enthusiastic about the opportunities they've had in plastics. They're learning new things every day. And they feel like the industry is underappreciated by the public. Everyone had something to say about the technology and markets that they find interesting.
Yes, the stereotype is that there aren't many women in plastics, or that you'll just find them on the factory floor, working for male managers. But the reality is that the plastics industry isn't just a men's club, where women are dismissed or given menial or clerical roles.
In other words, we put a spotlight on women the plastics industry in this issue, and I think the results are pretty brilliant.
Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of “The Plastics Blog.” Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.