Andrea Pinabell, President of Southface Institute
As I walked into my freshman Chemical Engineering 210 class, I was one of a handful of young women; in fact, our numbers were in the single digits in a class of hundreds. But that was to be expected in the early 1990s, where, according to the US Census Bureau in 1990, only 12% of the engineering workforce was female. Out of that graduating class, our aspirations went in a lot of different directions—oil and gas, materials, the environment, pulp and paper, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, food and beverage (Yes, brewing beer is a ChemE thing). My intended destination was to improve our planet. What I did not know in those early years was in how many directions my career could have gone in order to accomplish this singular goal.
After 25 years, both the world and the possible ways to help it have changed and expanded to create a framework from which our current pool of “sustainability-related careers” has emerged. My journey included working for an energy company; consulting, including owning my own firm; a corporate foundation; a Fortune 500 multinational; and, most recently, a regional nonprofit, of which I am so very proud.
This Friday marks another International Women’s Day, and the opportunities for women to work and, more importantly, to lead in sustainability are greater than ever. No matter where you are on your career path, this day provides a platform to give some examples of the different and important roles that someone who wants to make a positive impact can aspire to have.
No matter your pathway, whether it’s a straight line or, like mine, a curvy road, I have learned a few things along the way that I believe are worth sharing. They have helped me stay grounded and moving in the right direction, no matter what role I was in:
In every role, there is opportunity to make a positive impact in sustainability, regardless of whether or not it’s in your title. I wish every woman (and man) a very happy and inspired International Women’s Day!