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Program Explores Workplace Diversity

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

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This year’s Women in Coatings session at SSPC 2017, which closed Thursday (Feb. 2) in Tampa, looked beyond the role of women in the industry’s workforce to also explore the skills and attributes all generations of professionals bring to the table.

A gender-diverse group filled the room Wednesday (Feb. 1) not only to recognize Margaret Pardy for her Impact Award win, but also to explore the topic of “How to Make Generational Diversity a Business Asset.”

‘Oh Yeah? Just Watch Me!’

Margaret Pardy, of MAG Consulting Inc., was presented with this year’s Women in Coatings Impact Award at SSPC’s Awards Luncheon on Jan. 30.

Margaret Pardy
Photos: Technology Publishing Co.

Margaret Pardy, of MAG Consulting Inc., received this year's Women in Coatings Impact Award. She shared the story of her career journey during a special session at SSPC 2017.

The Women in Coatings Impact Award was established at SSPC 2014 to recognize women in the coatings industry whose contributions have created a positive impact on the culture of the industry.

Pardy, of Calgary, Alberta, founded her own coating inspection firm in 2013 after years working at NWS Inspection Inc., with founder Doug Wade. In introducing Pardy at the awards ceremony, Michael O'Donoghue, Ph.D., International Paint LLC, noted her reputation for excellence and her role as a mentor for younger women in the coatings industry.

During the Wednesday afternoon session, SSPC Executive Director Bill Worms welcomed Pardy to the podium, where she shared with those in attendance the path that took her from professional house painter to coatings inspection company owner.

Dedicating the award to all hard-working women, Pardy stressed that from the beginning she never viewed careers as specific to male or female and believed she could do anything she wanted to do.

However, from the start of her painting career, she was told she’d never find a job as a house painter because “contractors don’t hire women.” Her reaction, naturally, was to say, “Oh yeah? Just watch me,” she said.

Although Pardy was championed by Wade when others doubted her at points in her career, it was she who won them over to her side with her skills, attitude, and relationship building.

In closing, Pardy stressed that she never let those defeatist attitudes stop her, and she hopes her story inspires those who are part of the next generation of the industry, adding, “If you believe you can, you will.”

The ‘Connected Generation’

Part 2 of the program explored the concept of strengthening innovation through the “connected generation.” Here, Covestro Senior Vice President Christine Bryant and Liz Roeske, a senior R&D specialist working in Bryant’s North American Coatings group, talked about concepts relating to today’s intergenerational workplace.

Liz Roeske and Christine Bryant, Covestro

Liz Roeske (left) and Christine Bryant (right) of Covestro, explored the topic of generational diversity in the workplace, with an emphasis on the "connected generation," during the Women in Coatings Cocktails and Conversation session Wednesday (Feb. 1).

Organizations large and small are coming to terms with a workplace that could include four generations working together. Instead of focusing on the differences between the generations, it’s possible to make this diversity a business asset. In fact, Bryant noted, taking advantage of the different perspectives everyone brings to the table helps to fuel the fresh ideas and unique perspectives that help spur the innovation essential to maintaining a competitive edge in today’s industry.

In a discussion-style format, Bryant and Roeske addressed what has come to be known as the “connected generation,” i.e., flexible, adaptable professionals who take advantage of today's very technologically connected world.

Unlike generational classifications like Baby Boomers, Gen X, and millenials, the connected generation is not defined by age but a common mindset.

These individuals are perceived as more comfortable with technical advancements—and even empowered by them. They are highly connected via digital platforms, using them to create, share and communicate content. For them it is second nature to turn to technology for answers, Roeske explained. Because they are often connected to a device, be it a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, they are often constantly reading and seeing other ideas, as well as contributing their own views to the conversation.

These characteristics contribute to the misperception that these folks always wants to do things virtually via “faceless communication,” but Roeske noted the value of one-on-one communication when possible. In fact, she explained, she tries to introduce herself to a contact first by way of a phone call before resorting to email to continue the communication. Bryant added that it doesn’t necessarily matter how you collaborate—virtually or face-to-face—just as long as you do.

In exploring what matters most to this technology-driven group and how its ambassadors can strengthen a company’s culture of innovation, Bryant pointed out these individuals can also be characterized by its interest in giving back to the community through volunteer work and other means. Their company supports this by providing paid volunteer leave or through company-sponsored events; these activities not only support the employee’s interest, she said, but often the staff person comes back a better employee for the experience.  

The opportunity to grow personally and professionally with the support of one’s company, of course, spans generations, and this is just one of the areas where different generations can find common ground.

In reality, all generations have their own strengths, skills, experience and expertise that, when shared with one another, can help everyone’s abilities—and their companies—grow. 

Editor's note: Content edited to clarify intergenerational aspects of the "connected generation."


Tagged categories: Awards and honors; Conferences; Covestro; North America; Personnel; Program/Project Management; SSPC; SSPC 2017; Workers

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