Women in the Chemical Industry
International Women’s Day, first observed March 19, 1911 in Germany, is now a day of global celebration of women, including those in the chemical industry.
If there were a “year of the woman” in the U.S. chemical industry, it would have been 2009, at least as reflected in C&EN’s survey of women in industry that year. For the first time, two chief executive officers appeared in the magazine’s annual list.
One of the CEOs was Ellen J. Kullman, who became the first female CEO of a publicly traded firm dedicated to chemicals when she took over the top job at DuPont at the beginning of 2009. Because DuPont is the second-largest public chemical company in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world, Kullman holds one of the most important positions in the entire chemical industry. Also, last year saw the addition of Lynn L. Elsenhans, CEO of refiner and chemical maker Sunoco.
There have been other years in which women broke glass ceilings in the chemical industry. In 2001, for instance, Fran Keeth became head of the U.S. arm of Shell Chemicals, and Nance Dicciani took over Honeywell International’s specialty materials business. Stephanie A. Burns got the top job at Dow Corning in 2004. But it wasn’t until Kullman and Elsenhans took their jobs that women became the public faces of stock-exchange-listed firms in an industry so accustomed to male management.
This year hasn’t brought the same kind of breakthrough. But that doesn’t mean that it has been a bad year for women at chemical companies. According to C&EN’s statistics, women have made modest gains on chemical company boards of directors and as chemical executives.
C&EN’s 2010 survey shows that women have made advances by all measures. The survey finds that 13.4% of the 396 directors at chemical companies are women, versus 13.2% in the 2009 edition. That translates to an average of 1.3 women sitting on the boards of the 42 firms included in the survey, versus 1.2 a year ago.
Women made sharper gains in the executive suite. Some 9.6% of the 418 executive officers at the chemical firms in the survey are women. Last year, that percentage was 8.3%. Looked at another way, there is an average of one female executive officer per company, up from 0.8 in 2009.
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Excerpted with permission, Chemical & Engineering News
Copyright © 2010 American Chemical Society