This month is Women's History Month, and our industry employs many inspiring women who develop, manufacture, design and market the products we rely on. Women are an invaluable piece of the paper and wood products industry, and we are excited to share with you their stories.
This spotlight will feature two women who are currently working in the industry, Cassie Nail, Reliability Manager at Evergreen Packaging, and Julie Skibniewski, Vice President, Business Development at Seaman Paper.
Why did you get into the paper and wood products industry?
Cassie: It was a happy accident and not an industry I had even remotely considered. I was a non-traditional student in my 30s pursuing a mechanical engineering degree at the University of Tennessee, and a summer internship opportunity opened up at Kimberly-Clark. I was fascinated by the papermaking process, the complexity of machines, and was hooked by the gratification that comes with solving problems. I added a Reliability and Maintainability minor and finished my degree while working part-time at another pulp and paper facility, and I intend to remain in the industry for the duration of my career.
Julie: I graduated college in 1991 and had offers from several leading companies in the banking, petroleum and chemical industries, in addition to an offer to join International Paper. At the time, the paper industry looked very different from today. Paper was everywhere, and there was no internet or mobile phone. Communication was driven by paper, and the opportunity to join the industry seemed promising and exciting. International Paper was also investing in women, and my sales development program of eight included five women. I feel fortunate for the investment in training that International Paper made early on in my career.
What does a woman’s perspective bring to the table?
Cassie: It depends on the woman. We all draw from our life experiences to form unique viewpoints, so diversity is the key to a variety of perspectives. The chances are that if you’re a woman in a paper mill, you have encountered, and overcome, different challenges than your male counterparts.
Julie: I think a woman’s perspective is critical to organizations, and our view brings a different lens in analyzing an opportunity and or challenges. Women tend to be more collaborative, and I believe collaborative and diverse teams produce better results.
Why should women be part of this industry? How is being a woman an asset to the industry?
Cassie: Women should be a part of every industry! It is an asset to have women at all levels of the organization, especially so it’s not an anomaly for the next generation. There is a lot of talent out there, and many of the high-potential candidates are women. As an industry, if we want to attract them, they need to see that they are represented at every level, and that opportunity is not limited.
Julie: Women should be a part of this industry because it is an innovative and adaptive industry where there will continue to be more opportunities for women. While there are certainly more women in the industry than when I started, we are still underrepresented at many tables. I believe women often offer different perspectives and different angles of approaching decision making. I find that women can often bring a different level of empathy to interactions, which can be an important human connector.
What advice would you give to women looking to elevate themselves into leadership positions?
Cassie: Speak up. If you have a thought, share it. If you have a good idea, go after it. If you make mistakes, be accountable. Make sure your work is visible, network throughout the industry, not just within your own company. Learn everything you can.
Julie: I think that women looking to move into leadership positions should make sure they clearly communicate that interest and feel confident in their ability to succeed. Take on new responsibilities and challenges and always be looking to learn and grow. I find that for me, at this point in my career, it is the myriad of career experiences that makes me most valuable as a woman in this industry.