Julie Hamp, a high-ranking female executive at Toyota Motor Corp., resigned this month after she was arrested in Japan under suspicion of mailing oxycodone painkillers to herself.
The episode is noteworthy on many levels.
First, Toyota President Akio Toyoda promoted Hamp this year in an effort to diversify Toyota's leadership, which is dominated by Japanese men. Toyoda's reasoning: Toyota is a global brand and needs a global perspective to compete and lead. The car maker sells 75 percent of its vehicles outside Japan and only 20 percent of Toyota's workforce live in Japan.
But diversifying Toyota's leadership has been a hard sell inside the car maker, which counts many plastics companies as suppliers.
Alas, this remains a man's world. And if you believe most U.S. companies are more enlightened, you are mistaken.
The facts: U.S. women make 78 cents for every dollar that U.S. men earn in almost every occupation, according to the Institute of Women's Policy Research. That wage gap is not closing quickly, either. The institute says women will reach pay parity here by 2058. So, by the time young women in high school today reach their late 50s they will be on equal footing with their male peers. (That sound you hear is their collective individual retirement savings plans weeping.)
In my travels, plastics processors and machinery makers openly discuss the need for skilled workers. Some have found local solutions. But what about a concerted industry effort to find, train and retain more women to help address this skills gap. Manufacturing isn't just for the boys anymore; the jobs are safe, the pay is good and many robots literally do the heavy lifting these days.
Our editors certainly found some amazing women doing amazing work for this issue of Plastics News. Inside these pages, we profile 24 executives and innovators who are having dramatic impacts on their organizations.
And I've met many strong women in my two years in the plastics industry — Petra Cullman, Melanie Hart, Andrea Siy, Lori Schaefer-Weaton, Susan Bessemer, Kleta Childs to name a few. These women earned their seats at the executive table, no doubt. But someone had to give them a shot. I hope the spotlight our team is shining on women today moves more companies to consider a hire or promotion for a worthy candidate who also happens to be a woman.
No doubt some will respond, “We hire the best person regardless of gender (or race or nationality).” It's my experience that men still do most of the hiring. These men tend to hire other men, especially for leadership positions.
We need more executives like Aiko Toyoda who make diversity a priority. These are leaders who, even when a plan goes sideways like in the case of Julie Hamp, stick with the approach that is rooted in common sense and business strategy.
Lafferty is publisher of Plastics News. Reach him on Twitter at @PN_Publisher.