The following article originally appeared in 'Packaging Strategies.' You can also click here to read it.
From scientists who are developing eco-friendly resins to designers creating an impactful point-of-purchase display to sell product, there are a variety of career opportunities for women in the third-largest industry in the world. The global packaging market value will increase from $917 billion in 2019 to $1.05 trillion by 2024,* making it the third-largest industry in the world. Packaging also covers all four of the main sectors of the economy primary (natural resources), secondary (manufacturing), tertiary (CPGs and retailers) and quaternary (information technology, research and development). From scientist to designer, there is a vast amount of career opportunities for women in the third-largest industry in the world.
What was your first job in packaging? What made you stay in the industry?
I have 35 years of packaging, chemical, and sustainability experience. After receiving a degree in chemical engineering as well as an MBA, sustainability has been a focus throughout my career. So, leading a packaging coatings business with deep roots in science and a strong focus on sustainability was a natural evolution for me. Today, at PPG, I’m responsible for packaging coatings and specialty materials that elevate our organization's commitment to consumer safety and sustainability. I love that it’s an incredibly dynamic space that has a direct impact on every single person’s daily life.
Why are women important in packaging?
Women play an important role in economies around the world as they usually drive household purchasing decisions. And if women are choosing what to buy and how it’s packaged, it’s critical that their perspective is present at the outset of new product and packaging development. Women also tend to champion enhanced product qualities like safety and sustainability that help a brand's products stand out among the increasingly crowded shelf space. But really, women are an important part of a diverse team, just as it’s important to have people from different backgrounds or regions. Diverse teams work better.
How can we get young women and girls interested and excited about a career in packaging?
It’s an exciting time to be in the packaging industry because of growing consumer demand and the continuing innovation for sustainable solutions. We’re seeing changes that would’ve taken years in the past be made in months. My message to everyone, but particularly young women who care about sustainability, is that there are many ways to positively affect the world we live in, but packaging innovations offer a unique opportunity. Most people are completely unaware of all of the coatings that make their packaging viable, so we can start by highlighting the critical role that science plays in driving circularity and sustainability. We need diverse minds to innovate, collaborate, and develop solutions that will enable a truly circular economy and solve some of today’s biggest challenges.
What has been the most significant barrier in your career in packaging?
Honestly, and in jest, the only barrier I’ve found is that I’m not a golfer, so I’ve probably missed out on some camaraderie on the course. My passion is swimming, and I’ve found it’s hard to have a casual conversation while doing laps.
Any advice on how to find a mentor?
Take the initiative and make it a priority to learn from the people in your orbit as often as possible. Get to know the people around you that you admire and reach out. I’ve found that often people are reluctant to just ask – they expect a process to come in and assign someone to “mentor” them. And while that can be a really enriching format, mentorship doesn’t need to be formal and intensive. It can be as simple as a monthly check-in with someone whose perspective you value. And I’ve also found that mentorship can even come from having an effective network of peers to volley ideas and discuss solutions. Receiving mentorship is about creating situations for yourself to engage in open, honest feedback and discussion.
What advice would you give your 25-year-old self?
I was probably too career-driven early on. I set goals and worked doggedly towards them, which is exactly the type of passion-driven approach that I instill in my own girls today. But I would advise my 25-year-old self, and our similarly aged girls, that you can be successful and still do the things you love, like swim and play the piano. I find that I’m most effective at my job when I’ve given myself ample time to refill my creative battery. Being a well-rounded person is so critical in today’s world.
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