Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are business imperatives for SPE, its members’ companies and academic institutions, and the overall plastics industry. SPE strives to create an environment in which everyone is respected and valued and has equal opportunities to develop, advance, and be heard.
To achieve this mission, SPE has adopted the following Strategic Objectives:
Education: To provide education to SPE’s elected leaders and staff, as well as to members’ organizations, to ensure that all stakeholders have a thorough understanding of the inherent value of becoming more diverse, inclusive, and equitable organizations and have the tools necessary to advance toward that goal.
Internal Recruitment and Professional Development: To develop processes to recruit and develop more diverse SPE leadership and staff teams, and to provide resources to members’ companies so that they too have the tools to similarly enhance their existing programs and practices.
Career Pathing and Mentoring: To expand the scope of the SPE PlastiVan® and PlastiVideo® programs to reach a greater number of students in under-resourced BIPOC communities with multiple, layered touches of polymer/plastics STEM education and activities with ongoing mentoring from BIPOC scientists and engineers. The goal is to inspire a large, diverse group of young people to envision their future careers in plastics-related industries and to support their career journeys toward that end.
Stakeholder Engagement: To engage members’ companies, academic institutions, and other stakeholders to share best DEI practices, workforce information, and resources to further these objectives, and to create safe opportunities for stakeholders to respectfully discuss DEI issues which are at the intersection of individual, corporate, and academic social responsibility.
Robbyn Prange, associate R&D director for Formulation, Automation and Materials Science (FAMS), Core R&D has accepted the role of R&D director for DCS Engineered Materials Product Development. In this role, Robbyn will lead the global team focused on developing new products across a range of platforms such as conductive composites, adhesives, battery fire protection, microelectronics, and moldable optics for leading mobility & transportation and consumer & electronics customers globally. Robbyn will also serve as a member of the Silicone Product Development leadership team and represent R&D on several global multi-functional management teams. She will transition in mid-May and will remain located in Midland, Michigan.
Robbyn joined Dow in 2001 as part of the Research Assignments Program. Over the next seven years, she contributed to numerous polymer chemistry and application development projects across Polyurethanes, Epoxies, and Water Soluble Polymers. Robbyn then led a nylon process improvement project for Honeywell and, while leading Air Products’ Epoxy Americas Application Development & Technical Service team, was technically responsible for commercializing several products aligned to the concrete coatings market. Rejoining Dow in 2012 as a research scientist in Core R&D, Robbyn successfully led various projects and initiatives including Film Genome, Dow’s low volume, high throughput film fabrication and testing capability. In her current role as associate R&D director in FAMS, Robbyn leads the Midland Colloids and Interfacial Science and Mechanical Dispersion teams which have advanced and commercialized key projects including Silicone-Polyurethane, Silicone-Acrylate, HTR Adhesion, RHOBARRTM 320 and 325 Barrier Coatings and HYPODTM 8510N Polyolefin Dispersion. During her tenure, her team has earned four R&D 100 awards, two Edison awards, and an Adhesion and Sealants Innovation award.
Robbyn earned a B.S. in Chemistry from Hope College and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from The Pennsylvania State University. An active member of the American Chemical Society and GLAD, Robbyn has held local leadership roles with both. She is Six Sigma Green Belt certified, the inventor on 8 patents and author of 18 peer review articles and preprints.
Zen Saunders (she/her/they) currently serves as the North America Leader for Inclusion, Diversity and Employee Experience. In this combined role, she is responsible for driving and implementing the I&D + EX strategy and providing expertise, consultation, and support to business, functional, and ERG leaders and EX change champions in the region. She collaborates with the businesses and functions on inclusion and employee experience interventions that lead to measurable results and long-term culture change. She also manages relationship support for I&D+ EX partnerships and represents Dow externally consistent with the region’s outreach and thought leadership initiatives.
In her previous role, Zen was the Regulatory Affairs Leader (LA, AR, AL, GA and KY) advocating for Dow’s interests in several strategic industry associations in the Gulf Coast. She was responsible for supporting permit approvals, advocacy for state regulations, ensuring site support for various regulatory changes and negotiating enforcement settlements. In a vote by her industry peers, Zen was awarded Most Valuable Player of the Louisiana Chemical Association Environmental Committee in 2019 and 2020 and was also nominated to be Top 20 under 40 in the Baton Rouge Business Industry Report in 2017.
Zen serves as the Louisiana Operations Disability Employee Network Site Implementation Leader, was a co-leader for the Louisiana Operations Global African American Network and has worked closely with the other ERG Site Implementation Leaders on numerous collaborative inclusion and safety initiatives. Zen is the former team leader for the Louisiana Sustainability team and is one of the Global Co-Leaders for the Valuing Nature team. She also currently serves on the Florida A&M University Recruiting team and Dow Political Action Committee National Steering Team.
Zen holds a Master of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Carnegie Melon University, as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Engineering and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Syracuse University. Zen and her wife, Iman, have two daughters Mya and Yah Ella. In their spare time, the family enjoys hiking, karaoke and spending time with family in San Francisco and Belize.
Page 2 of 2 ®TM Trademark of The Dow Chemical Company (“Dow”) or an affiliated company of Dow DOW CONFIDENTIAL - Do not share without permission Zen Saunders (she/her/they) currently serves as the North America Leader for Inclusion, Diversity and Employee Experience. In this role, she is responsible for driving and implementing the I&D + EX strategy and providing expertise, consultation, and support to business, functional, and ERG leaders and EX change champions on regional initiatives that lead to measurable results and long-term culture change. She also currently serves on the Florida A&M University Recruiting team and Dow Political Action Committee National Steering Team. In her previous role, Zen was the Regulatory Affairs Leader (LA, AR, AL, GA and KY) advocating for Dow’s interests in several strategic industry associations in the Gulf Coast.
As Chief Diversity Officer, Wendy Garcia is responsible for increasing contracting opportunities for Women- and Minority-owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs) and managing the Comptroller Office’s internal supplier diversity initiative, as well as other diversity related projects across all bureaus of the agency. Ms. Garcia also leads the Comptroller’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth through Diversity and Inclusion – a group comprised of national, local, corporate, and government experts seeking to increase supplier diversity in the public and private sectors.
The Comptroller’s Office of Diversity Initiatives, led by Ms. Garcia, releases “Making the Grade: New York City Agency Report Card on Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises,” a report that examines how well City agencies meet existing supplier diversity goals while outlining additional measures that could be taken to increase the participation of MWBEs in City contracting.
Previously, Ms. Garcia served as the Deputy Chief Diversity Officer at the Office of New York City Comptroller, Director of Community Outreach and Partnerships at the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD), Deputy Director of the Manhattan Borough President’s Northern Manhattan Office, and Immigrant Research Analyst for the Rockefeller Foundation through Baruch College.
Ms. Garcia earned a Master’s degree in Urban Policy and Management from New School University with a concentration in Economic Development, and a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Delaware.
Cathy is a retired executive in the plastics industry, the founder and co-host of Parity Podcast focused on accelerating gender equality, and a DEI thought leader and speaker. You can find her on LinkedIn or www.par-ity.com.
Cathy is a retired executive in the plastics industry, the founder and co-host of Parity Podcast focused on accelerating gender equality, and a DEI thought leader and speaker. You can find her on LinkedIn or www.par-ity.com.
There is much evidence that investments in diversity, equity and inclusion or DEI have multiple benefits including helping companies meet their financial goals, fostering a sense of community and commitment, along with helping in recruitment and retention of talent.
According to research from whattobecome.com “Companies employing an equal number of men and women manage to produce up to 41% higher revenue.” Beyond this, companies that are highly diverse and inclusive, ensuring staff from not just multiple gender identities but of various ethnic and culture backgrounds, assorted economic and geographic environments are 120% more likely to hit their financial targets.
Join us as we explore not just the many benefits but some of the best strategies for ensuring you have diversity, equity and inclusion in your workplace.
For more than half a century, female representation in male-dominated industries, such as manufacturing and engineering, has been improving. Progress has been modest despite trying many approaches to change the outcome. Change is needed at the individual, enterprise, and ultimately societal level to make meaningful, lasting change. In this presentation, I reflect on our progress through the dual lenses of data and personal experience. Those perspective lead to tangible actions which individuals and organizations can take to foster a more inclusive environment. I offer hopeful ideas which can lead us to a more equitable future for everyone.
Dr. Sarah Eckersleyis theVice President of R&DforIndustrial Intermediates & Infrastructure (II&I) at Dow. II&I consists of two customer-centric global businesses, Industrial Solutions and Polyurethanes & Construction Chemicals, that develop important intermediate chemicals that are essential to manufacturing processes, as well as downstream, customized materials and formulations that use advanced development technologies. The II&I unit of Dow has over $16B in sales and offerscustomers value-added sustainable solutions to enhance comfort, energy efficiency, product effectiveness and durability. Applications address a wide range of sections, including home comfort and appliance, building and construction and adhesives and lubricants, among others.Eckersley is also an executive member of the R&D leadership team atDowandis accountable for developing and setting organizational and technologicalstrategy.
Prior to her role leading II&I R&D, Eckersley was the Global R&D Director for Dow Coatings, Monomers and Plastics Additives.She collaborated closely with marketing and commercial organizations to identifyhigh value initiatives for growth and profitability.In her expansive career at Dow, Eckersley previously held critical rolesin Core R&D, Pharma & Food Solutions toPackagingand Specialty Plastics.
Eckersley is a proven leader with over 25years of industry experienceand an active member of the Technical Advisory Board for the Department of Chemistry, Universityof Wisconsin-Madisonand the Science and Technology Advisory committee of the American Coatings Association.
Eckersleyholdsa B.A.S.cin chemical engineering, Universityof Ottawa and a Ph.D. in chemical engineering, Universityof Waterloo. Eckersley has also completedprograms in the Young Executives Residency,UNC Kenan Flagler Business School, and Women on Corporate Boards, Harvard Business School.
In 2021, Eckersleywas recognized with the Lawrence B. Evans Award in Chemical Engineering Practice from the AICHE and a Global Leader Award from the Society of Women Engineers.Twice, she has received the Roon Foundation Award, a premier recognition from the coatings industry.
The majority of a people leader’s time is spent managing budgets, influencing decision making, and ensuring that projects are properly resourced. As technically trained scientists and engineers, it is sometimes difficult for leaders to adapt and handle the non-technical, personal events that can impact every aspect of an employee’s life. The ability of a leader to manage these un-anticipated situations goes a long way towards assisting the effected employee and can have ripple effects throughout the organization. This talk will focus on real-life scenarios/experiences that showcase the importance of empathy and understanding from the people leader and the importance of being prepared to play an important role in mitigating the added stress from work to allow the employee to cope.
Thomas Edmond White is an individual who is very passionate about education and believes that helping students to achieve and realize their potential is his true calling. Thomas grew up in Inkster, MI attending a Private Christian Academy in Inkster (Peterson Warren Academy). His mother was a firm believer in Christian values, principles and education. She insisted that Thomas be active in the church choir, church basketball team, pathfinders and attend the local camps and camp meetings. Thomas’ father was the City manager of Inkster during Thomas’ childhood and insisted that Thomas take on leadership roles and be an active participant in community events in Inkster. Thomas graduated from Peterson Warren Academy as the president and salutatorian of his High School senior class. Upon graduation from High School, Thomas continued his education at Oakwood College, a Christian HBCU in Huntsville, AL. After completing two years at Oakwood College, Thomas left and earned his Bachelors at Eastern MI, his Masters at the University of Phoenix and is ABD with his Doctorate at Walden University.
After completing his undergraduate degree, Thomas began working as a classroom teacher in Cleveland, OH and later on in Atlanta, GA. He continued to teach while opening an independent small business construction company specializing in custom homes, where he became a Master carpenter. However, Thomas felt compelled to be more impactful in the development and mentoring of the youth in his community and wanted this to be his primary focus. In 2005 he left the classroom, shut down his construction business and became an assistant principal at the Academy of Michigan. As an assistant principal Thomas was able to help design programs to enhance the academic performance of the school.
Because of the success of his mentoring, innovative programs, initiatives and interventions he helped to implement Thomas was given the opportunity to open up a Charter school as the Principal. Thomas realized that he had a knack for solving school and district problems and began specializing in turn-around school projects. The more challenges that these projects entailed, the more appealing to job was to Thomas as a goal and result-oriented leader who takes pride in getting the job done. His success as a school Principal propelled him into the position of a Superintendent, CEO (Chief Executive Officer), CAO (Chief Academic Officer), and CAO (Chief Administrative Officer).
Thomas is currently working at American International Academy, bringing education back to the City of Inkster, after all the public schools were shut down in 2013. In the 8 years that he has been at AIA, he has purchased and renovated 3 buildings of 200 thousand square feet of instructional space, increased his enrollment from 120 to 520 students, brought in over 2000 computers for a two device to student ratio. Every classroom throughout the district now has a Smartboard and every school has a SMART lab and Apple lab for 21st century learning to his schools. He is currently putting an Ecotek Lab in all of his schools. Thomas believes that every child can learn and has successfully created a holistic educational environment and culture of LOVE, LAUGH and LEARN in all of his schools. He has opened his schools up to the community for free to host basketball games, pathfinders, praise and worship gatherings, expungent fairs and more. His focus is rooted in the Inkster community servicing the urban, socially and economically-disadvantaged youth. He believes that our youth are deserving of a safe environment with the best that 21st century learning has to offer. He is an advocate for our youth and believes that if we properly invest in them, they will be the leaders that will help revitalize our communities.
Thomas has a loving and supportive family with his wife Ruby as well as four boys, and two girls. His family is his lifeline that keeps him grounded in the church and community. His favorite quotes are:
“Great Spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” — Albert Einstein
Allyship is an action word – an everyday behavior that leads to inclusivity while dismantling biases in the workplace, and beyond. We’ll discuss the differences in critical roles (i.e. mentor vs. ally), the difference between intent and impact, our lived experiences and inclusion journeys, and actionable guidance for those along their journey, too.
Ashia is an intentional bridge-builder and servant leader passionate about enabling sustainable growth and prosperity for vulnerable communities through scalable solutions and accessible resources. The impetus of this mission occurred through early exposure to service, instilled throughout her upbringing.
Ashia is currently a Sr. Product Manager driving Social Responsibility across Amazon Private Brands. Previously, Ashia drove customer-facing marketing as a global lead at Amazon Web Services and led operational improvements while managing a multi-million dollar, downstream global services portfolio at ExxonMobil.
Ashia has an MBA from Columbia Business School and a dual-degree in Supply Chain Management and Marketing from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.
Ashia is also the co-host of the The Core Intentions Podcast. She shares the mic with her father / business partner, and their mission is to share the stories and personal why of inspiring leaders across Technology, Supply Chain, and Sustainability through a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) lens.
Ashia is currently based in Brooklyn, NY, but has enjoyed living in every US time zone and considers Detroit home. She enjoys running (as well as eating) her way through the parks and streets of NYC and finds balance by escaping to the desert to hike and to connect with self and nature.
Mr. Keith Young is the Founder and CEO of Ecotek Lab. He launched Ecotek in 2005 in the City of Detroit to provide youth living in urban communities with the opportunity to do hands-on research with UN member countries to help solve global problems. Mr. Young has over 25 years of work experience as an innovation and technology consultant working with Fortune 50 companies around the world. He is also the co-founder of several high tech startup companies. Ecotek Lab has satellite labs in Florida and Maryland.Ms. Victoria Hatchett is a 12th grader and the top academic student at Detroit Edison Early College of Excellence with a GPA of 4.86. Victoria is also the lead mechanical engineer in Ecotek Lab-Detroit. She started in Ecotek while in the 6th grade. She has worked on a wide range of research projects ranging from computer programming to data analytics, additive manufacturing (3D printing) robotics and material science. Her current research, which is being supported by Arkema Corporation, involves the development and launch of a 3D printed, GPS enabled, satellite tracked, floating buoy made from light-weight metal that can be used to collect microplastics in the Great Lakes and local tributaries- i.e. Detroit River.
Enjoy this conversational session diving into the journey of being an ally in the evolving packaging world. Lynzie Nebel will be conducting an in depth and engaging interview of Jonathan’s journey as an ally.
Jonathan Quinn is the Director of Market Development and Sustainability at Pregis, where he leads the market segmentation strategy development and execution along with all facets of flexible packaging sustainability focused on providing innovative products and services that Protect, Preserve, & Inspyre. Jonathan joined Pregis in June of 2021.
Jonathan is recognized as an expert in the areas of Packaging Sustainability, consumer insight and voice of consumer associated with packaging. He has conducted extensive consumer research on the e-Commerce and consumer packaged goods sectors. Prior to joining Pregis, Jonathan most recently held Marketing leadership roles at NOVA Chemicals. Additionally, he has held sales leadership and business development roles at Illinois Tool Works Zip-Pak division, the COESIA Group, and Multisorb Technologies.
Jonathan holds a Bachelor of Science in Packaging Science and Business Management from Clemson University. Currently, Quinn is the founder and Chairman of the Emerging Leadership Council at the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA), chairs the membership committee at AMERIPEN, and is on the Global Board of Directors of the International Safe Transit Association (ISTA). In June of 2021, Jonathan was appointed to the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) Advisory Board for Diversity and Inclusion. Jonathan was designated a “Rising Star under 35” by Plastics News in 2018 and the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA) Young Leader of the Year in 2019. In February of 2021, Jonathan was recognized by Plastics News as a top Social Media influencer in Plastics and Packaging. He can be found on all social media channels under the handle @JQUINNPACKAGED.
Lilian Judy is a Ghanaian woman who graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell with a degree in Plastics Engineering, and has worked in multiple industries ranging from Packaging, Films, specialty chemicals and now the Biotech/Pharma industry.
Lilian is currently a Life Science Applications Engineer at Entegris, where she supports single use freeze/thaw and cold chain applications.
She is a Women in STEM Advocate who is creating a space through her nonprofit organization, WEMO, to encourage and inspire young girls and women who look like her to go into STEM fields. She is on a journey to help young women in stem fields succeed and not just that but thrive on their journey to the top of their engineering careers mainly through mentoring and creating opportunities.
As a multihyphenate, Lilian is also a Speaker, STEM Content Creator and a storyteller, who uses social media to tell her personal story, to create opportunities to empower and inspire young women in stem.