Smithers announces sponsorship of women’s workshop at 2020 International Elastomer Conference in October

Smithers announces sponsorship of women’s workshop at 2020 International Elastomer Conference in October

Smithers is proud to be the presenting sponsor at the International Elastomer Conference’s Women of Rubber Division event for the second year in a row. We had a conversation with Lakisha Miller-Barclay, Executive Director & CEO at Rubber Division, American Chemical Society, about the upcoming event.

Smithers: Where did the idea/inspiration for the women’s event come from? Why did you start this program?

Lakisha Miller-Barclay: The initiative was taken for several reasons. In 2014, we created a Women’s Wall at our annual International Elastomer Conference. The wall showcased photos of dozens of women in the rubber industry and was very well received. People continued to give positive feedback about it long after the conference. The staff and I were very aware of the number of women in the industry and the contributions they were making. However, walking our show floor, it was difficult to see the true representation of that. The wall was a great opportunity for not just women but all attendees to see this. After visiting other professional conferences and attending a few women’s panels, I thought it was important to keep up the momentum from the Women’s Wall and create a place for the women in our industry to network and tackle issues that were relevant to them.

With the generous and valuable support of Smithers, we introduced our first event for women—WORD: Women of Rubber Division—at our 2019 conference. It was a huge success! We learned that this is something the women of our industry were so excited about and have been craving. Although our conference is virtual this year, we determined that this is too important of a component to not offer. We look forward to featuring a Women of Rubber event on October 21st. Our goal is to continue to develop a women’s program that is led by the women in our industry. WORD will be a permanent part of our programming going forward, not just at our conference.

What unique challenges and opportunities do women face in the rubber industry?

The rubber industry is continuing to go through a period of constriction as smaller companies are being consolidated into larger global corporations. Our focus needs to be on recruitment at the high school and college level and continued outreach. If you asked an everyday citizen what types of jobs are in this industry, you will most likely get an answer akin to “making tires.” We must accelerate our efforts into educating the next generation about the multitude of opportunities within our great industry.

Our mission is to promote and advance the evolution of the global elastomeric profession and its relevance to society. A key word in that mission for me is evolution. The rubber industry continues to evolve and create those opportunities for more women to not just join but lead. It took over one hundred years before we had our first minority or female chairperson. Although women have always played a vital role behind the scenes, our presence on the board was almost nonexistent. Our members have shown that they value this transition, and I am proud to say we will have three women to lead Rubber Division, ACS within a ten-year timespan. One specific challenge that I see related to women in the rubber industry is that they may be unaware of these potential opportunities if they are not being exposed to a mentor or our industry does not do effective outreach.

What are your goals for this year’s event?

Our Women of Rubber Division (WORD) event will take place on Wednesday, October 21, 2020, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.

The focus of this event will be on the subject ‘Adapting and Evolving’. It will begin with a panel discussion featuring four exceptional women sharing their experiences regarding the topic. The group of attendees will then move to virtual breakout rooms where topic questions will be asked and discussed. Active participation to generate conversation is encouraged. This event is designed to create an opportunity for the women of our industry to get together, have some conversations, share experiences, give and receive advice, and network. At the conclusion of the event, participants are welcome to remain in the virtual event to continue conversation. It is a different format than last year’s; however, it will give the women of our industry an opportunity to come together, learn, share, and connect.

What is your favorite memory from last year’s event?

I have two favorite moments from last year’s event:
  1. The first was just walking into the room and seeing 65 amazing women of our industry right there in front of me.
  2. The second was at the end of the women’s event during the reception. I found it very satisfying to see everyone hang around to talk to each other well past the end of the event, as well as have personal conversations with our panelists and leader of the event. There was such a feeling of positivity and excitement from all who participated. It left me standing there thinking about what more we could do.
What advice would you give to women who are just beginning their career in this industry?

Protect your personal brand! You create your brand from the moment you step into your career and it will follow you throughout. Make sure that you define it on your terms and keep it strong.

My second piece of advice would be to find a person who you wish to emulate and watch them closely. They may not be in a position to mentor you; however, you can learn a lot from people by simply observing them. Ask yourself, would I like to be that type of leader, or would I do the opposite?

Lastly, ensure that you verbally voice your desires for advancement. Do not assume that because you do your job well that you will automatically be promoted. Seek out the decision makers who will determine your career advancements and make sure that they are aware of your goals.

What makes Smithers a good sponsor?

Smithers is highly respected in our industry. We offer different services, but our goals and objectives are the same when it comes to serving our industry to the best of our ability. When we discovered that their desire and excitement to support and embrace the women of rubber aligned with ours to do the same, we knew they were the perfect partner for us on this new journey. Without them, we may not be able to offer this event. Smithers has been a great partner and we are very appreciative of their support as Presenting Sponsor again for this year’s event!

Please note: The above image was taken at the 2019 event.

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