Session Co-Chair Invites You to Diversity and Inclusion

I recently caught up with MaryKathryn (Kathy) Lee, senior chemical engineer at ExxonMobil Corporate Research, and session co-chair of the upcoming Diversity and Inclusion: Starting and Thriving in the Workplace at the 2017 AIChE Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, MN.

What is your role for the 2017 Annual Meeting in Minneapolis?

We all wear many hats when we attend the Annual Meeting: for ourselves and for our colleagues who may not be able to attend. In addition to my activity on the Board of Directors, I am current past chair of MAC and a past member of SIOC. I have always been intersted in diversity and inclusion issues within AIChE. And so I will be attending SIOC and MAC meetings to encourage, help plan, and participate in AIChE Diversity and Inclusion activities. This year that includes co-chairing a session joint sponsored by MAC and the Education division

What was your inspiration for developing the session Diversity and Inclusion: Starting and Thriving in the Workplace?

I cannot take credit for developing this session. It has been truly a confluence of people, ideas, and opportunity. There had been discussion within MAC around highlighting MAC’s activity and visibility in regular meeting programming. At the same time, Prof. Sheena Reeves and Dr. Isaac Gamwo were developing a proposal to increase outreach in Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) through student chapters. It presented a great potential for overlap and those ideas were the genesis of last year’s session, Diversity and Inclusion in the Classroom, chaired by Prof Adrienne Minerick. It was a great session with a strong representation by professors from the Minority Faculty Forum and other colleges and universities.

I remember sitting in the room with the other co-chairs after that session and someone suggested a session on the next step for students: the corporate climate as new engineers enter the workforce set the framework for this new session. That was the genesis I think.

What are you hoping attendees will learn from attending this panel?

Over the past few years AIChE has been actively raising awareness of the importance of diversity and inclusion through workshops and programming. These activities have grown out of MAC, WIC SIOC and other committees. Professor Zenaida Gephardt from Rowan University and former chair of SIOC, has been a leader of Diversity and Inclusion initiatives and will be leading a panel discussion this year with Chevron, BASF, and ExxonMobil panelists. We hope to discuss aspects of new engineers entering the workplace from a corporate point of view. I’m not sure what we will hear, but I am impressed by their willingness to openly discuss matters of diversity and inclusion in the corporate setting.

I hope YPs as well as MAC, WIC, and SIOC committee members and, indeed, all the institute from companies and academic workplaces will come and share, compare and learn from our common experience. I hope we can discover new ways to improve the workplace climate for everyone. This is a great opportunity to hear from folks about programs and views from inside a company. This is a chance to join and perhaps shape the conversation. This will not be the last chance to invite discussion within AIChE but I hope that everyone will take advantage of this opportunity.

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MaryKathryn (Kathy) Lee

Mary Kathryn (Kathy) Lee is a chemical engineer at ExxonMobil Corporate Strategic Research (Annandale, NJ). Read more.