Women hold a wide variety of roles throughout the paper and wood products industry, and they are essential in guiding the manufacture of many of the products that we rely on every day. To continue our celebration of the contributions these women make for the industry, we interviewed notable women throughout our membership and produced a series of their responses. They shared what attracted them to the industry, the importance of female perspectives and why others should feel compelled to be a part of it.
This spotlight will focus on two women, one from Georgia-Pacific and one from Dart Container: Trish Bowles, Public Affairs & Policy Manager, Georgia-Pacific; and Jackie Cannon, Production Manager, Dart Container.
Why did you get into the paper and wood products industry?
Trish: I was an Energy Support Rep for Georgia Power when I was introduced to Georgia-Pacific (GP). I installed energy support technology from Georgia Power for the entire paper and wood industry in the Southeast territory. We tracked energy growth and helped GP to respond to their respective electrical rates. As a seasoned person in energy, I was enamored with the fact that GP produced over five percent of the U.S. power from biomass. I learned how to track their submissions and wanted to be a part of a company that made and sold consumer/commercial products and used every bit of a tree to enhance their viability. I was fascinated by the products from wood to paper and jumped at the opportunity when I was offered a job at Georgia-Pacific.
I was hired into GP engineering, which I did for 13 years, then had a stint in Public Affairs at Palatka, FL. I worked extensively on a pipeline that would take the effluent from the mill that was currently going into a creek into a major river. I was surrounded by Department of Environmental Protection, Environmental Protection Agency and GP Environmental to ensure that this was a safe alternative. It was rewarding to work for a mill that cared about the environment. That’s GP.
After that, I was hired as Governmental Affairs reporting to GP headquarters. I am proud to report that GP now produces 10 percent of the nation’s power from biomass. Safely. Biomass is carbon neutral.
Jackie: I came into manufacturing by accident. After coming out of the military, I had a few temporary jobs and decided to go back to college and collect unemployment until my VEAP (GI bill at the time) kicked in. I stopped at the Federalsburg plant to have someone sign paperwork saying I had applied.
I was hired on the spot and reported to work seven hours later. That was 33 years ago. I started as an Inspector Packer, and after less than six months was promoted as a Quality Lead, then eventually Quality Control Manager. Our plant manager at the time pushed me to return to college and also believed in cross training his managers. I spent a month as Assistant Plant Manager and loved it. I asked to be considered if there was an opportunity to move into manufacturing production.
My opportunity came less than a year later when we consolidated another facility into Federalsburg. I have been in production manufacturing ever since.
What does a woman’s perspective bring to the table?
Trish: I am so proud to be a female working at Georgia-Pacific. Especially since we were purchased by Koch, there really is no gender difference. We operate on what is called “comparative advantage” – meaning the company assists you in determining what you like to do and what you are good at doing – that brings value to everyone. Our culture has changed so much over the last years that it is difficult to point out what a male or female brings to the table. It’s the individual.
Jackie: It shouldn’t be viewed as a woman’s perspective or a man’s perspective – we are all just people, with different talents, abilities and experiences. I believe my skills include being a good multi-tasker and a good listener. I try to help everyone grow with our company when they show initiative, ability and a willingness to learn.
Why should women be part of this industry?
Trish: I would suggest that perhaps women are seen as nurturers, and for my children’s and grandchildren’s future, being involved in the process of paper and wood making gives us the opportunity to successfully protect our environment and create a sustainable and maintainable business by producing products that respect the earth. I am very proud of my industry and the opportunities that have been afforded.
Jackie: People should look to the paper industry, and manufacturing in general, as a great career option because there are plenty of opportunities. It is a viable alternative to college or in conjunction with a college education.