At SageGlass, we celebrate women’s contributions to our industry all year round, and support women in our workplaces every single day. For Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day 2021, we’re shining the spotlight on just a few of the initiatives and policies that make SageGlass a supportive environment for women—and on some of the wonderful women who lead our teams. “Women were still being devalued and objectified in the workplace not too many decades ago,” says SageGlass vice president of administration Chuck Hayes. “So, while we still have a long way to go, we have actually come very far on the journey. And that journey took…the willingness to listen, and learn and change, and then do it all over again. [SageGlass] is a STEM business, and so we are in a space which greatly lags progress [compared to] the rest of society. And yet, we’ve proven that even STEM can grow and change.”
For her take, we talked with Carlijn Mulder, Vice President of Quality and Regulatory at SageGlass. We asked Carlijn what advice she’d give to young women who are studying science and engineering, or entering the research or manufacturing industries.
- Seek out mentors and female role models. Carlijn says, “I actually chose my master’s thesis supervisor to be a woman. She was super cool, super smart. She showed me it was totally possible to stand your ground professionally in a very male dominated field.” Carlijn, who grew up in the Netherlands, studied applied physics. In her undergraduate program, she was one of just five or six women “in a group of 60 or 70 students,” she says. When she moved to the U.S. to pursue her PhD at MIT, she again tried to surround herself by strong women who became role models and peers. “Pretty quickly, I was integrated into a women’s support and leadership group. Seeking out mentors and role models helped me realize the blind spots I had with regards to my gender early on. Also, the talents and drive of my peers and mentors showed me there should be no reason women can’t fulfill the roles that they aspire to.”
- Own your accomplishments and authority. Carlijn points out that, in many cultures, girls and women are socialized to downplay their strengths and deflect compliments. Especially in male-dominated fields like manufacturing, research, and engineering, that puts women at an automatic disadvantage. “Women don’t use compliments as an opportunity step up into a posture of authority” the way men are more comfortable doing, says Carlijn. So how does that look in a real-world business setting? “If you have a board room filled with women and one of them downplays a compliment, you would all recognize it and not take advantage of it,” says Carlijn. “But in a man’s world, it’s important to be aware of these blind spots.”
- Look around you for inspiration. “As my career progressed, I felt more and more empowerment,” says Carlijn. “I now see even more role models. I see absolutely amazing women in so many different roles at SageGlass and beyond. It’s very heartening.” Carlijn wants women to consciously lift each other up in the workplace, and encourages men to proactively lift up their female colleagues, too. She says, “Give women the opportunity to show themselves, or point out their contributions to a project. What I’ve typically seen is that women are less likely to knock on the door themselves and say, ‘I want to present on this topic,’ or ‘this was in fact my idea.’ But if you open the door to them, they will.”
- Be fearless. “Make sure that your legs shake at least twice a week,” says Carlijn with a laugh. “If you don’t feel that, you’re not really stretching yourself. The next step is always the unknown, so you have to become comfortable with that.” She recommends that women in this industry seek out internships, special projects or assignments, and mentors, and take advantage of every opportunity for growth. “Growing is not only moving up the ladder — you can also look for lateral moves or assignments to broaden your skill set and network.”
- Be yourself. Traditionally, many women in the workplace have had to suppress their sense of style, femininity, personality, or even interests in order to be taken as seriously as their male colleagues. “I’ve had my fair share of demeaning comments about my looks during my studies and professional career — suggesting that any attention I paid to my appearance meant I had spent less energy on my profession.” says Carlijn. “I know so many people who can do amazing work while still showing their own personality, and having some kind of passion. It’s not, wake up, put your gray suit on, and that’s the only way for me to show that I’m serious. Bring your personality to work. Life is short.”