By Shell Polymers on Mar 04, 2021
We sat down with several women in a variety of different roles and stages of their careers throughout Shell Polymers. We asked them to share their career challenges and achievements to encourage and advise future generations of women in the plastics/technology industry.
These inspirational women include:
- Kim McPhillips, Regional Sales Manager
- Tasha Thompson, I.T. Logistics Lead
- Brandi Mitchell, Analytical Chemist
- Georgia Craven, Procurement Manager
- Tobenna Emecheta, Team Lead Instrument & Analyzer
What kind of challenges have you faced as a woman in the industry?
Kim: I faced a pivotal moment in my career that made me think about where I wanted it to go. I was working in Latin America, and my employer pulled me back into the U.S. It was a new position, and I was happy to have it, but I was also enjoying my time in Latin America. The company said they were concerned about my safety since I was a single woman. Later on, a male colleague got the opportunity to go to Europe and mentioned he was initially supposed to be going to Latin America. It turned out that the company wasn’t worried about his safety because he was a man and had a family. That made it clear to me that things would be different just because I’m a woman. Because of this experience, whenever people think I have a weakness because I’m a woman, I want to prove them wrong.
“Whenever people think I have a weakness because I’m a woman, I want to prove them wrong.”Kim McPhillips, Regional Sales Manager
Tasha: Being a woman of color, I struggle with incidents where there is an obvious bias, and I have to figure out where the bias is coming from. I also always have to prove that I’m the expert my resume says I am, while other colleagues are immediately referred to as an expert because that’s what it says on paper. Every new project I came onto required a fight for recognition when it comes to my leadership experience, too. No matter what, I don’t let that hold me down. I keep a positive attitude, and I don’t allow those biases to affect who I am and how I feel about myself. I know who I am, what I’m capable of, and that if I keep speaking out it’ll break through.
Brandi: As a chemist, I frequently deal with the perception people have of plastics. Family members and friends love to bring that up, and I think it’s important to highlight the positives that plastics provide. For example, the increased fuel efficiency in cars afforded by lightweighting or making your food safer. These essential benefits cannot be stressed enough. We need to convey the excellent advantages plastics afford in our daily lives. We also need to talk about how Shell Chemicals is putting time into making plastics more recyclable or the industry focus on making better products out of recycled plastics. A focus on our part in the process but also what all individuals can be doing in terms of sustainability can create big changes.
Tobenna: Work/life balance with regards to my children has always been the biggest challenge. It can be hard to manage a career around children. It's gotten more doable as they've grown up, but it was tough to work as an engineer while also being on call during nights when they were babies. Not to mention that I traveled worldwide for my previous job while raising a 1-year-old and a 5-year-old. A nanny and supportive friends helped during those situations.
Georgia: I agree with Tobenna. Being a working mom and balancing work and family responsibilities is a serious challenge. Setting boundaries is essential and an excellent first step. Another challenge I’ve had to deal with in my career is equity as a woman of color. When I started over 20 years ago, I felt like I couldn't bring my whole self to work. I wasn’t always welcomed or heard in meetings either. It has changed a lot, but it’s been an uphill battle in my career.
What is the biggest achievement or highlight of your career to-date?
Kim: I could highlight a lot of things, but all of them come back to the achievement of being brave. My bravery is what created who I am today. It’s what helped me live and work in Latin America, move companies, and move countries. All those moments have been intense and stressful, but they were also exciting and rewarding. Some people are comfortable doing the same thing every day, but that just wasn’t me. Fueled by this determination, I’ve been able to travel the world and experience it up close, which has been amazing.
Tasha: Seeing the industry’s become more inclusive is a real highlight. I feel personally blessed to be where I am. I would’ve never imagined it as a Black girl growing up. My great-grandmother was born into slavery and I’m just a few generations removed from that. To see the progression from my history to where I am today, I am incredibly proud.
All of the women here are trailblazers. We’re some of the first women in our field. Hopefully, the next generation does not face the same uphill challenges. I didn’t have a mentor or someone who I could get wisdom from. I hope we can all help that change.
“We’re some of the first women in our field. Hopefully, the next generation does not face the same uphill challenges.”Tasha Thompson, I.T Logistics Lead
Brandi: At my last position, I saw an opportunity to make a change in the catalyst we were using on our products. I ran with that project and ended up getting three patents out of it. I was proud of that work because I dug into it just out of interest, which led to some great work.
Georgia: I have to say it’s working on the Shell Polymers project. Being a part of this greenfield project with the size and impact it will have on both Shell and this region of the country is by far my best achievement.
Tobenna: In my previous role, I was the first female head of instrumentation. However, my most outstanding achievement is being the first external person appointed to Regional Subject Matter Expert for Shell globally!