Women in Chemical Engineering and Manufacturing

Women in Chemical Engineering & Manufacturing

In celebration of Women’s History Month, EcoLink is making a conscious effort to highlight and bring to light all the most up-to-date and relevant information regarding Women in Chemistry and STEM. Understanding women’s added benefit to chemical engineering careers and manufacturing businesses brings to light the contributions of Women in Chemistry. Starting off with women in chemical engineering, how do they contribute? 

Benefits of Hiring Women Chemical Engineers 

Diversifying your company has a plethora of advantages. With the rise in awareness for gender-inclusive workspaces, women have more opportunities than ever to pursue careers in various fields—including the world of STEM. The chemical industry is one of the areas of STEM that is slowly but surely adding more female employees and leaders to its ranks—and profiting from it. Women in STEM are the future, and in this blog post, we’ll explain the benefits of hiring female chemical engineers. 

Skills Needed to Become a Chemical Engineer 

Engineering degrees tend to take a minimum of four years to complete and are a necessity for anyone wanting to pursue a career in chemical engineering. During this time, future engineers study an array of scientific areas including, but not limited to: 

  • Arithmetic 
  • Physics 
  • Chemistry 
  • Biology 

These categories accompany various subcategories that these students learn. Even if one wants to specifically become a chemical engineer, they still need to have knowledge in all the other scientific fields, as chemical engineering is complex and pulls from every area of science.  

Other Skills Required to Be a Chemical Engineer 

Obtaining a degree is only half the work if engineers don’t possess the correct skillsets. Here are some of the most sought-after skills companies look for when hiring chemical engineers:  

Attention to Detail 

  • Since they work directly with toxic chemicals, machines, and other hazardous products, these types of scientists must be cautious and precise at all times. An error or oversight on their part could result in anything from a minor incident, to fatalities. 

Math Skills 

  • The idea of being precise carries over to the scientist’s mathematical skillset. When formulating chemical products, they must allow no room for error in their calculations.  

Creativity 

  • While they must be precise, they also must be willing to take risks. Companies want scientific professionals who will help create new and better formulas, machinery, and other products for their business. 

People Skills 

  • Engineers must be able to communicate with all kinds of people. They must be able to listen and interact with a company’s leaders to learn what they expect of them. And if working on a piece of machinery for a manufacturing plant, then they must listen to the workers who are in direct contact with the machinery to learn of any issues, ideas, etc. 

Reasons to Hire Women Chemical Engineers 

Women make for great engineers. In general, women tend to… 

  • Listen and collaborate with others well 
  • Have a keen eye for detail 
  • Come up with creative and innovative ideas 
  • Have a different outlook on issues than men 
  • Create a safe and inclusive workspace in which all employees benefit 

Because of these characteristics, women tend to be great leaders, and scientific professionals must be leaders in their own right if they are to have a successful career. With the growing number of women pursuing degrees and careers in chemistry, companies should be looking to women to fill their engineering positions. Figure one below shows the ratio of men to women in chemical engineering. Though the number is not high, it is still higher than it has been before.

Women Chemical Engineers

Figure One: Census Bureau, 2019

Chemical engineers are responsible for evolving the world of chemistry, so why not evolve this position by filling it with more equally-capable female engineers? 

Recruiting and Retaining in the Chemical Industry 

Hiring a diverse team of professionals is key in every industry, but is becoming more apparent in the chemical industry. Chemical engineering and other STEM-related professions remain male-dominated with plenty of room to diversify, especially when it comes to hiring women. More companies are beginning to take notice of the plethora of benefits associated with hiring more females in the field of chemical engineering and are starting to specifically recruit them to their team.  

How to Recruit Women in the Chemical Chemical Engineering Industry 

  1. Internal Hiring Opportunities 

Create hiring opportunities available to current employees to make lateral or promotional transfers within the company. This will allow your company’s existing female employees to take higher-up leadership opportunities the same as their male counterparts. Not only will the company benefit from a more diverse team of leadership, but will also have the added bonus of not having to train someone new who isn’t familiar with the company. 

  1. Establish a Company’s Commitment to Diversity 

If a company seeks to externally hire more women or people of any minority group, then they should take steps to show prospective hires how they’re committed to diversity. Including a statement on the company website and backing up the statement with proof about the company’s commitment to an inclusive team will allow future hires to know the company’s beliefs and values align with their own. This commitment should be ingrained in the day-to-day work life and not just used as leverage to make the company appear more inclusive. 

  1. Target Colleges 

The number of females working in STEM-related fields is thanks to the increase in the number of females pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in STEM in recent years. This group of women is the future of STEM and engineering professions. If your business is looking to add young and educated hires to your team, then target the promising individuals in the undergrad or grad programs who are eager to start their careers in chemical formulation and design. 

How to Retain Women in the Chemical Industry 

Recruiting an employee is one thing, but giving them reasons to stay with your business is another. Retaining female employees requires that companies provide them with equal opportunities at all times. This translates to every area of work, including equal pay and equal chance of promotion to leadership positions as other male employees. Your business should also make the effort to offer a great maternity leave plan if applicable and continuously commit to creating a safe and inclusive space. 

Women-Owned Manufacturing Businesses 

At the beginning of the 20th century, women were not given many opportunities to pursue careers—they could pursue things like teaching, domestic labor, and a limited portion of factory work. In our modern society, women are a major part of the workforce—including the manufacturing industry.  

There are many assumptions out there that women are not involved in the manufacturing industry, whether it be because they can’t, shouldn’t, or just don’t. What most people don’t know is that many women hold extremely important roles in manufacturing, even owning successful businesses. In increasing rates, women are earning higher degrees in manufacturing-related fields—in fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics conducted research that shows that since the 1960s, the number of women in manufacturing has increased by over 40 million. Despite this, women in manufacturing are still underrepresented, with women making up only approximately 29% of the people in this industry. This makes it even more important to highlight some influential women in manufacturing. Figure two below shows manufacturing businesses primarily owned by women and other industries. 

Featured Women-Owned Manufacturing Businesses 

  • Julie Bartholomew, M.D.  
    • Bartholomew is the founder, CEO, and global innovations officer for IMX Labs, Inc. IMX Labs, Inc. is an innovative beauty tech company that specializes in cosmetic customization. In fact, this company boasts one of the world’s largest global patent portfolios.  
  • Lisa Lunsford  
    • Lunsford is a co-founder and the CEO of Global Strategic Supply Solutions LLC, also known as GS3. GS3 engineers manufacture, assemble packages and ship precise machine parts to a variety of industries, including automotive and healthcare.  
  • Donna Russell-Kuhr  
    • Russel-Kuhr is the president, CEO, and co-owner of PTM Corporation and Modified Technologies, Inc., a company that specializes in the design, tool building, prototype, and production of high-quality metal stampings.  
  • Kelly Victor-Burke  
    • Victor-Burke is a co-owner and managing member of Burke Architectural Millwork LLC, a custom architectural millwork that produces commercial and high-end residential products such as wood paneling, tables, booths, bars, cabinetry, and more.  
  • Priska Diaz  
    • Diaz is the founder and CEO of Bittylab, the company that manufactures the Bare® air-free feeding system, an alternative to traditional baby bottles that has been clinically proven to prevent GERD, reflux, severe gas, spit-up, and colic in babies.  
  • Aneesa Muthana  
    • Muthana is the president and co-owner of Pioneer Service, Inc., a small business that manufactures precision machine parts.  
  • Donna Chambers  
    • Chambers is the CEO and founder of a company called Sensacalm that hand-sews custom weighted blankets that have proven therapeutic benefits.  
  • Sandra Young  
    • Young is the founder and owner of Skyco Shading Systems, Inc., a company that manufactures custom window covering products for commercial and residential purposes.  
  • Jennifer Manzke  
    • Manzke is a co-owner of Manzke Machine, Inc., a small business that specializes in taking prototypes to the production stage through design and engineering.  
  • Kariman Sholakh  
    • Sholakh is the owner of a Tier 1 certified blown film manufacturing business, Nexus Plastics California, Inc. They produce sustainable packaging and pride themselves on high-quality products and consistency.  

In addition to all these amazing women, there are millions more that are extremely influential to the manufacturing industry. Although women in manufacturing are under-represented, the few that have entered the industry are making big waves. 

Females Are the Future

EcoLink believes in the importance of educating others about the history of women’s involvement in the chemical industry in order to shine a light on the necessity of females in workplaces predominantly headed by men. Our team has put together a collection of blogs discussing the past, present, and future of women and chemicals. Continue your learning by reading EcoLink’s blog, Why Aren’t More Women in Industrial Chemical Professions? to learn about why women haven’t been more involved with industrial chemical professions in the past!  

For more information about Ecolink or questions about the products we offer, please contact us here! 

Chemical Engineering

Women in Chemistry

Why Aren’t More Women in Industrial Chemical Professions?

The manufacturing industry is one of the biggest and most influential industries in the United States. Employment rates and economic value has been on a steady incline for years. Despite the massive success of this industry, the number of women in manufacturing remains extremely low—less than 30% of the 10+ million people in this industry are women. Figure One (Plex Team) below gives insight into the trends of women in the manufacturing industry. With this in mind, the question arises: Why aren’t more women in manufacturing?

men versus women manufacturing

Figure 1: Men Versus Women In Manufacturing (Plex Team)

Main Reasons Why There Aren’t More Women in Manufacturing 

Reason #1 – Outdated Stereotypes  

One of the primary reasons that females tend to avoid mass-product careers is because of old, outdated stereotypes that push the idea that females aren’t suited to work in such industries. Fields like engineering and technology are historically dominated by men because men are responsible for a large portion of the development of these industries; after all, females were not allowed to pursue such careers for many centuries.

Reason #2 – Public Perception 

Another reason for the lack of women in manufacturing is the public perception of this industry. There is a notion that warehouse and distribution jobs are… 

  • repetitive and monotonous 
  • require high levels of physical strength 
  • don’t require a high level of skills

However, there are a lot of positions that require highly skilled people, sometimes requiring higher education in manufacturing-related fields. Mass-production related jobs also don’t have to be physical labor or directly involved with the creation or production process—the modern production process means that they can involve collaborating with a team of scientists or engineers, working on the board of a company, working on processes through computers or automation, etc.

Reason #3 – Gender Wage Gap  

A well-known issue across many industries, not just manufacturing, is the pay gap between men and women. Research by the International Trade Union Confederation has shown that females globally are paid about 18 percent less than their male counterparts in the manufacturing industry, even though both genders do the exact same work, putting this industry in the top five industries with the highest global pay gaps. Understandably, information like this is going to prevent female workers from being drawn to this male-headed industry.

Reason #4 – Male Recruitment 

Additionally, manufacturing jobs are typically marketed to appear to men rather than women. This is in part due to the lasting stereotypes and assumptions that females are either not fit for mass-production and distribution jobs, or don’t have an interest in it. However, in recent years, many companies, in an attempt to fill empty jobs, have focused more resources on attracting female candidates, especially through outreach programs at schools.

The Future for Women in Manufacturing 

Overall, women in manufacturing are extremely underrepresented in our current society. Thankfully, things are starting to change, and companies are integrating policies to make work schedules more flexible for those with children, and new research is continuously coming out to support that having an employee base with an equal mix of each gender promotes company success. As female workers are increasingly supported in the industry and encouraged to participate, the number of women in manufacturing will continue to increase. Figure two (McKinsey, 2021) below displays employee satisfaction based on a mix of genders.

women in manufacturing

Figure 2: Supporting Employees Based on Gender (McKinsey, 2021)

But gender equality isn’t just about fair wages and basic rights in the workplace—it encompasses a larger fight to fix several gender imbalances. One of those being the health and wellness of female workers. In the few occupations predominantly headed by females, there is an increased risk for toxic chemical exposure, and thus, irreversible consequences to one’s physical health. Click here to read Ecolink’s blog, History of Women’s Chemical Exposure to Household Chemicals, to learn more about this lesser-known issue swept under the rug all too often.  

Benefits of Hiring Women in Chemical Manufacturing? 

The manufacturing industry is by no means a female-led industry, but neither is the chemical industry. However, companies are beginning to see the benefits of hiring women in chemical manufacturing in every step of the chemical creation and distribution process. While females may be outnumbered in chemical manufacturing, there is an increase in opportunities for them to close the gender gap in the coming years  

What Is Chemical Manufacturing?

Chemical manufacturing refers to the creation of products through the transformation of various types of raw materials. These products are either categorized as specialty or commodity chemicals. Whichever category they fall into, these synthetic products are needed in just about every business there is. From cleaning supplies to laboratory products, chemicals are an essential part of daily life for everyone in some way.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are over 15,000 chemical warehouses, labs, and other facilities across the United States that help contribute to over $555,000,000,000 to the economy each year. Figure 3 (EPA, 2019) below shows the distribution of types of industries involved with growing the economy. With numbers like these, this industry remains one of the most lucrative businesses in the world where employees in every area of the supply chain remain in high demand.

Figured 3: Facilities by Subsector (EPA, 2019)

But as of 2019, only about 6% of the global workforce in this booming field consists of females. With the rise in awareness for gender diversity and equality, there is plenty of room for development and a growing opportunity for women in chemical manufacturing.

Benefits of Hiring Women Employees & Leaders 

There are a plethora of reasons why all companies should hire more female employees and leaders in all facets of the workplace. Not only do a growing amount of customers and partners support businesses with modern values and inclusivity, but hiring female employees and leaders has an abundance of benefits behind the scenes. Here are just a few of the top benefits of hiring women in chemical manufacturing:

  • Attract younger workers with an inclusive culture? 
  • Help boost productivity levels? 
  • Strong communication, negotiation, and analytical skills? 
  • Fresh outlook? 
  • Stronger team spirit and group effort?

Females Are the Future 

Want to learn more about women in manufacturing, the benefits of hiring women, and their impact on the chemical industry?

Ecolink believes in the importance of educating others about the history of women’s involvement in the chemical industry in order to shine a light on the necessity of females in workplaces predominantly headed by men. Our team has put together a collection of blogs discussing the past, present, and future of women and chemicals. Start by reading Ecolink’s blog, History of Women Cosmetic Scientists, to learn about the legacy of female chemists through their memorable work that impacted not only the chemical industry but the world. 

Ecolink Community: Future Female Artists

Interested in more in the Ecolink Community? Ecolink would also like to happily announce the Ecolink Future Female Artists Collection! This week we are highlighting artists Katie Bushur with her self-titled “Self-Portrait” and Maddy Pelissero with her “The Future is Female” artwork. You can check out more of their work by clicking their names and viewing their featured art below!

Katie Bushur Art

Self-Portrait, 2021. Oil on canvas. 36×48 (Katie Bushur, 2021)

The Future is Female, 2022. Digital Art. (Maddy Pelissero, 2022)

History of Women Cosmetic Scientists

History of Women Cosmetic Scientists

While the world of science may not historically consist of women, it’s significantly influenced by them nonetheless. The various areas of scientific study such as biology, chemistry, physics, and more all have influential female figureheads. They have helped shape modern knowledge and practices in their relative fields and are especially true in the field of cosmetic science with women cosmetic scientists.  

What Is Cosmetic Science? 

Cosmetic scientists, also known as chemists, work directly with chemicals to formulate a variety of beauty products with different purposes, looks, and more. Cosmetic science refers to this formulation of raw materials to create said beauty products such as: 

  • Lipstick, eyeshadow, and other makeup 
  • Shampoo and conditioner 
  • Hairspray  
  • Body lotions  
  • Face creams 
  • Hair gel 
  • & more! 

Famous Female Cosmetic Scientists 

While beauty products are used by everyone in one way or another, it’s women who tend to use the most, averaging at least 12 different beauty products each day. And while women can be any scientist they choose, it makes sense that women are the ones who have made historic breakthroughs in this field of chemistry. Here are just three of the most influential female cosmetic scientists in history: 

Florence E. Wall – Born in 1893, Wall was one of the first-ever woman chemists and more specifically cosmetic chemists. Her legacy boasts a list of accomplishments in the world of science. Here are just a few of the things she is known for: 

  • Extensive studies in hair dyeing and helped found a postgraduation institute dedicated to the science of hair dyeing. 
  • Created her own program dedicated to the science of cosmetology 
  • She taught the first college courses about cosmetic science at New York University. 
  • Member of the American Institute of Chemists. 

Hazel Bishop – Bishops influence began in the early 1900s during her pre-med program at Barnard College where she helped the founder of Almay Cosmetics identify allergens in his beauty products and remove them. She worked in various chemistry fields but dedicated most of her life to the experimentation of formulas for various beauty items. During her studies she… 

  • Created and branded a long-lasting lipstick that turned into a successful company. 
  • She invented other products such as foot spray, perfume, and more. 

Tapputi Belatekallim – Estimated to have lived in Mesopotamia in 12000 B.C., Tapputi Belatekallim is credited as being one of the first chemists and female chemists in the world. Archeologist’s findings suggest she was a royal-perfume maker. She didn’t just mix scents but used her extensive knowledge of chemistry to formulate fragrant salves for the king of Babylonia. 

Want to Learn More About Women Chemists? 

Click here to read more of Ecolink’s blogs about women’s historical and modern-day influence on the world of chemistry

women and household chemicals

History of Women’s Chemical Exposure to Household Chemicals

Every job has different day-to-day responsibilities, just as every job has different tools—a sports newscaster needs a microphone, and a plumber needs a wrench and tool kit. When it comes to maids and housekeepers, their tools are also easily identified: cleaning supplies. But unlike a sports newscaster or a plumber, the tools, or cleaning supplies, that housekeepers use can contain toxic chemicals. In this blog post, we’ll dive into the world of household chemicals by taking a look at the history of women’s chemical exposure in maid and housekeeping positions from recent years. 

History of Women’s Household Chemical Exposure 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 82.3% of people employed as a maid or housekeeper were women in 2002. Later in 2020, the Bureau reported an increase in the percentage of females in housekeeping positions, accounting for 88.3%. Eighteen years and a six percent increase later, it’s safe to say that maid services consist mainly of females. And while this field of work presents itself as a great opportunity for women to have a career, it does come with certain risks. 

Household cleaning solutions such as floor cleaners, oven cleaners, and more contain several hidden toxins such as: 

  • Ammonia 
  • Formaldehyde 
  • Sodium hydroxide 
  • PERC 
  • & more

Prolonged exposure to toxic chemicals can have several negative health effects including triggering asthma, causing chemical burns and poisoning, as well as causing various types of cancer. In addition, pregnant women consistently exposed to any one of these harmful products are at an increased risk for their child to be born with birth defects. 

Since women make up the majority of maids and housekeepers, it’s women who mainly handle and are exposed to toxic household chemicals, thus suffering the consequences more than men in this field. 

What Can Be Done about Household Chemicals?

The first step is awareness. Educating cleaning companies on the dangers of the chemicals they are using is key. Next, they can start seeking a safer solution to toxic cleaners.   

Luckily, there are some safer alternatives to toxic household chemicals. At Ecolink, we provide companies with cleaner and greener solutions needed to help their business operate efficiently and eco-friendly. We also assist in chemical formulation to help create non-toxic cleaning solutions. Visit our website or contact us today to learn more. 

Want to Learn More? 

Interesting in educating yourself on women’s involvement in the chemical industry? Click here to read similar blogs.  

Laura Augustine Wordpress(1)

Laura Augustine Spotlight

“Do as A Woman Would Do It”

Laura Augustine’s Beginnings in Industrial Chemicals 

For Laura Augustine, it all started with a newspaper ad. After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 1992 with a degree in Anthropology and moving to New Mexico for a job, life had other plans for her. After moving home in 1995 from New Mexico and working odd jobs, she stumbled upon an ad in the newspaper for a customer service representative. The job was with a local chemical company and offered good benefits along with a decent paycheck. Coming from a blue-collar family she had never considered a job in chemicals before. 

She was later interviewed and hired by FBC Chemical in customer service. She worked in that position for about two years before exploring a new opportunity brought about by the sales manager. After deciding that customer service was not for her anymore, she began getting out of the office as a sales representative. While FBC may have taken a big chance on her in moving positions things worked out since that change happened in 1997… 

Other Women in the Industry 

Upon Laura joining FBC there were not any other women salespersons at the time, though one woman had worked there prior to Laura joining FBC in 1995. Laura found in the beginning and even now, that the industrial chemicals sales industry is predominantly male-dominated. While FBC itself is a male-dominated company, Laura has been given many opportunities to thrive and has found it a great place to work. 

Within the Pittsburgh market where FBC is located, there have been many women involved as purchasing agents and other positions throughout the years. Many of these women she met through Pittsburg Chemical Day that she began involving herself within 2000. The event was more male-dominated but in the past 10 years, more women have been attending the event. 

Selling Industrial Chemicals 

When changing to a sales representative, Laura found you learn along the way. You do not have to understand chemistry to sell chemicals. She explained it is the companies that do their own marketing and testing. It is the sales representative’s job to learn the product line and what those products can do. It is all about relationships and talking to people and getting to know them. 

She found that being a young woman selling chemicals in 1997 was hard because she had to build up her confidence. Most of her customers were men over the age of 50 who had a set mindset of what a young woman was going to explain to them about chemicals and the chemical industry. Laura challenged herself until she was able to move past it and found success doing the job and gaining more knowledge.  

Looking Toward the Future 

Laura finds that her favorite part of being in the chemical industry is the job itself and all the opportunities it brings. The longer she has been in her position the more women she has seen coming up as chemists, other sales representatives, management, and more. Even this year, Laura was excited to find that FBC hired another female sales representative. In a world where women can do anything they want, Laura has some inspiring words for young girls interested in male-dominated fields: 

“Don’t try to do your job as a man would do it, but do as a woman would do it” 

Understanding what women bring to the table is important, in terms of experiences and influences that come from growing up as a woman. Many experiences in Laura’s own life have reminded her that women and men see from different perspectives. Being a woman means you bring a lot to the table in whatever role you may be in, in the future. Laura believes it is important to remember that. So, for any girl or woman who may come across this story, remember just this: do as a woman would do it.

Interested in learning more?

Ecolink, Inc will continue to highlight more women in the chemical industry and their accomplishments. Keep checking in each week for more spotlights on women making moves in the industry!