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Women in Coatings Share Strategy, Support

Friday, January 22, 2016

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Industrial coatings work is no longer a male-dominated field, and SSPC’s Women in Coatings Program is actively working to continue to grow the industry’s culture as one where gender is no longer seen as a limiting factor.

During SSPC 2016’s onsite program, Women in Coatings co-chair Cynthia O’Malley hosted a “Creating a Culture of Leadership” workshop Tuesday (Jan. 20), during which about 20 women participated in a strategic planning session designed to further the program’s goals.

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Photos: Technology Publishing Co.

During the “Creating a Culture of Leadership” workshop at SSPC 2016,  about 20 women participated in a strategic planning session designed to further the program’s goals.

The session was part of a track examining Cultural Issues in the Workplace.

Transformational Leadership

Women in Coatings was established in 2010 to provide an inclusive network, promote equal opportunities for genders, and effect a cultural change that supports leadership and recognizes contributions that benefit the coatings industry.

Questions at top of mind for the group include:

  • Is the coatings industry ready to capitalize on opportunities, address problems and thrive in a gender-balanced business environment?
  • Are the most talented chemists, engineers, applicators, inspectors and scientists drawn to our industry?
  • Considering that more than 51 percent of the talent pool for engineers, scientists and chemists are women, are we recruiting from the whole talent pool or are our resources limited?
  • Are we attracting women for leadership roles in the industry by recognizing expertise and efforts?

A change in culture is the result of transformational leadership, O’Malley says, meaning the ability to influence others to act.

Culture is an outcome of an organization’s or industry’s recurring response to critical tasks. The first step in managing industry culture, she adds, is to have leaders act in a manner that clearly conveys how its mission is to be implemented and how team members are treated.

One of the most powerful advantages of the combination of transformational leadership and culture management is getting diverse and dispersed members of an organization to work together in a coherent and purposeful manner, she explains.

Influencing Cultural Change

In Tuesday’s workshop, O’Malley called on industry professionals to define how to further the group’s mission by capitalizing on the momentum of the cultural shift and continuing efforts to realize its desired outcomes.

The gathering was tasked with establishing broad goals for what can realistically occur in the next three years.

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Each year, Women in Coatings gathers to share advice and guidance with one another. At SSPC 2014, winners and finalists for the Women in Coatings Impact Award led a discussion panel. From left: finalists Wendy Banks, Victoria Gelling and Gail Warner; and winners Alison Kaelin and Lana Ponsonby.

A brainstorming session generated a broad list of ideas and objectives for how to draw attention to the role of women in coatings and their individual successes that ultimately benefit the coatings industry. These ideas and tasks were then combined into broader strategies that suggested ways to execute on them. Smaller groups worked together to develop specific objectives and plans of action to implement the key strategies over the coming years.

By the end of the two-hour workshop, three teams were committed to seeing these key strategies through in what O’Malley termed a “network of leadership.” For the near future, these strategies include technical contributions, networking opportunities, and a formal mentorship program.

The teams are being overseen by Kristin Leonard, Coatings and Non-Metallics Specialist, Bechtel; Rebecca Osborn, Estimator, Pro-Spec Painting Inc.; and Chrissy Stewart, Senior Chemist, KTA-Tator Inc., respectively.

Anyone with an interest in participating in or contributing to these strategy groups can reach out to O’Malley to connect with the team leaders.

Cocktails & Conversation

A second Women in Coatings event, Cocktails & Conversation, was hosted by co-chair Joyce Wright on Wednesday (Jan. 20).

During this informal session, well more than two dozen attendees of both genders gathered to hear and share practical advice with one another.

SSPC Executive Director Bill Worms spoke to the group saying he applauds the contributions that women are making in the industry, adding, “It’s up to us to figure out how to get people attracted to the industry.”

He encouraged the group to continue to mentor one another and added an additional piece of advice: “Be bold!”

At SSPC 2013, Women in Coatings gathered to participate in roundtable discussions during the conference.

Wright facilitated the program by asking questions of select women in attendance about their own experiences as a woman in the industry, including:

  • What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
  • What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership in the industry?
  • How did you overcome any gender-related roadblocks in your career?
  • What are your thoughts on the difference between men and women as leaders?

The questions were explored during the session by Laura Blechl, DECO Coatings; Erin Vogl, Dow Chemical; Gail Warner, HLL-NNS retired; Lydia Frenzel, Advisory Council; Stewart; O’Malley and Leonard. Their answers ranged from issues of technology versus personal interaction to subtle gender discrimination and issues of awareness.

Their personal experience and advice will also be available later in a video that was shot during the program. 

Award Recipients

In 2014 the Women in Coatings Program also established the Impact Award, which recognizes women in the coatings industry who have created a positive impact on the culture of the industry. Winners of this award are women who provide leadership in their companies and among their peers and demonstrate a commitment to the advancement of the coatings industry.

The 2015 winners are Gail Warner, HLL-NNS, Retired, and Lydia Frenzel, Advisory Council.

Other women recognized with awards during this year’s conference include Alison Kaelin, ABKaelin LLC, who received the Coatings Education Award, given for significant development and dissemination of education material and technical information relating to protective coatings and their applications.

Additionally, Kristin Leonard, Bechtel Corporation received the Technical Achievement Award, given annually to recognize outstanding service, leadership and contribution to the SSPC technical committees.


Tagged categories: Business matters; Coatings; Networking; North America; Program/Project Management; SSPC

Comment from VCBud Jenkins, (1/22/2016, 11:08 AM)

I have worked with woman bosses and men bosses and I don't see a difference. I think leadership depends on the personality and their set of skills, not whether they are male or female. I don't see that there is a "good old boys" network in the paint industry the way it is described in the movies. Women are accepted as bosses the same way that men are and the way a person is accepted depends on their managerial skills.

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