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Cultivating Diverse Leadership for Today and Tomorrow

March 8, 2024

Cultivating Diverse Leadership for Today and Tomorrow

By Francesca Reverberi, Senior Vice President of Engineered Materials and Chief Sustainability Officer

Today is International Women’s Day, a global day focused on the women's rights movement, and I find myself reflecting on why I became a leader in the chemical industry and what we can do to foster innovation for future generations of girls. In recent years, diversifying the workforce and leadership has been a hot topic for not just the chemical industry, but many companies in the U.S. and Europe. However, there is more to overcoming this challenge than simply promoting and hiring women.

We must cultivate an environment both within the professional world and at the educational level where young women and girls feel that they can learn and be successful in our industry. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) industries have particularly faced challenges with attracting women, as they make up only 18% of the STEM workforce in the U.S. and 41% of scientists and engineers in the EU. In the EU, while this percentage is quite good, the concern is that it has been relatively stagnant over the past 10 years.

We must invest in diversifying leadership and our workforce, as it brings a wealth of benefits to companies, but we need to take a strategic approach that addresses not just the challenges female workers face today but also removes barriers for the next generation as well.

Diversifying Leadership

At Trinseo, we value innovation and thinking outside the proverbial “box”—and this is one reason we know that our company will benefit from further diversifying our workforce. Research by McKinsey shows companies that are gender diverse experience multifaceted advantages, including outperforming non-diverse companies economically and generating more innovative results.

While more women are taking positions at the executive leadership level in recent years, we still represent only 28% of C-suite leaders worldwide as of 2023. One of the critical factors that research identifies for closing the gender gap in STEM are role models. That is why mentorship programs, employee networks and community involvement are important for succession planning and leadership development. Women entering the workforce need to see that they can achieve their career goals, and in turn, that can help spur the next generation.

By diversifying our workforce and leadership today, we can see not only economic growth and innovation, but we can cultivate a future where these benefits continue.

Becoming a Leader

As a child, I loved to seek out the root cause of a challenge, and it was a significant driver for my pursuit of a STEM career. That said, as I grew older, it was not common for women to pursue an engineering career. Through the support of my family, I was able to build my career and follow my passion for knowledge, understanding, and innovation.

However, one lesson I needed to learn was to advocate for myself. I had to be confident in showcasing my skills and education to promote myself in the spaces that mattered to me, and where I wanted to be heard. Advocacy and discipline are essential to success, and we must pass on an ethic of hard work to future generations. We need to encourage young women to take ownership of their professional growth. We must teach them to have difficult conversations, ask challenging questions, and continue to work hard. We must teach girls to take hold of their destiny. Additionally, as role models, we must recognize young girls and women for their unique and specific skills and performance, as well as ensure that they have equal opportunities to pursue their passions.

Diversity will remain a highly important topic across sectors and industries, especially for those in STEM fields. Being a business leader is challenging, but rewarding, and part of that reward is that I can be a role model for other young women. We have an opportunity to encourage girls today to invest in their passions and see where their curiosity, discipline and hard work takes them.

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