Every year when Plastics News has its annual focus on women in the plastics industry, you can count on someone — either on social media comments or emails — saying they don't see a need for the special recognition in Women Breaking the Mold.
Their argument, generally, is along the lines of: "Look how successful they are, that shows that they don't need any extra attention," or other statements about "equality" for male leaders. (I think you can guess the gender of the commenters.)
So let's make something clear: Yes, there are some very successful women in the industry, but I can assure you that each one of them has run up against at least one barrier in their lives. It's usually not a blatant rule that they cannot do the job, but instead a question whether they're sure they want such as "high-stress" post.
One example would be something along the lines of a discussion about a promotion leading to: "This is going to be a lot of travel, and you have small kids, so are you sure?" (Would you ask the same question of a man with young kids at home applying for that job?) Or maybe its a job coach telling a woman she should change the pitch of her speaking voice so she sounds more "authoritative."
During interviews with Women Breaking the Mold nominees and at our annual Women Breaking the Mold networking forum, we've heard stories of CEOs who are overlooked by potential business partners who insist they're waiting for the executive in charge. And, yes, that includes stories of asking them to fetch the coffee while they wait.
There are the researchers who see questions about their work directed to a man on their team, rather than them, even when they're listed as the project lead.
And then there was the manufacturing floor leader who was asked when "the setup guy" would be there. "I am the setup guy," she replied.
Women Breaking the Mold isn't about merely documenting a few women who overcame the odds. It's about recognizing and exposing the wealth of experience within the industry and making it clear that women belong in every facet of the plastics industry. By shining a light on them, the industry can help attract more people — of all genders — who can look to the industry as filled with opportunities for careers.
We've opened nominations for the 2022 class of Women Breaking the Mold. You can nominate yourself or a friend or colleague by filling out a form at plasticsnews.com/wbmsurvey. Nominations are open until June 20.
Profiles of this year's class will appear in the July 25 print issue of Plastics News.
This year's Women Breaking the Mold Networking Forum is Nov. 14-15 in Nashville, Tenn.
Rhoda Miel is the managing editor of Plastics News. Follow her on Twitter @PNRhodaMiel.