3M at WE20: Leading by example
Nov 13, 2020

This year, Katrina Hale has had to change how she looked for new talent at the Society of Women Engineers annual conference.

“I usually walk in in my cowboy boots and work the room,” the 3M engineering manager said. But not during a pandemic.

This year’s conference, WE20, might be virtual, but Katrina is one of many dedicated 3Mers making sure 3M is still noticed at the world’s largest conference for women engineers.

Through our corporate sponsorship of the event, panel discussions including many 3Mers and special recognition for our chief science advocate, Jayshree Seth – along with the release of her book in association with SWE that will support a society scholarship for underrepresented minorities – the conference continues to be an important two weeks for connecting 3M with diverse engineering talent.

After her Nov. 4 panel discussion “Overlooked Talent: Women of Color in Engineering,” Katrina said she was getting pinged on LinkedIn by conference attendees looking for potential opportunities at 3M.

“The story you always hear is, ‘You can’t find diverse talent,’” she said. She disagrees with that trope. “You’ve got to go look.”

What is SWE?

Founded in 1950, the Society of Women Engineers, or SWE, works to empower women in their careers as engineers and leaders.

3M is on the SWE Corporate Partnership Council, with more than 375 current members in the society at 3M. The group chapters hold monthly social activities, development and networking chats, as well as community volunteering opportunities, like FIRST Robotics.

This year’s annual conference, which ran Nov. 2-13, featured keynotes, panel discussions and breakout sessions focused on expanding the image of women as engineers and demonstrating the value of diversity and inclusion, according to SWE.

It’s that final part – diversity and inclusion – that 3M has championed this year.

The scope of 3M’s efforts was huge: Preparations for the conference began in January, with 3Mers submitting more than 30 presentations for the WE20 itinerary, recording video talks in 3M studios for air at the conference and coordinating marketing efforts leading up to the event. The payoff? During a four-day virtual career fair, more than 40 volunteers staffed a virtual booth, garnering in excess of 1,600 applications and 379 students interviewed by video.

“Debora Fronczak and her planning team put so much into this activation because it’s important for our company to resonate with these candidates,” Katrina said about Debora, vice president of Strategic Sourcing and Packaging Solutions at 3M. “It’s just a very good place for meeting people and trying to find opportunities for women.”

See it to be it

Katrina joined the society in 2004, after she already established her career as an engineer at 3M.

She remains an active member in part to network and look for hiring prospects – several university recruits and interns come to 3M from diversity events like WE20 every year. She also participates so young female engineers know there’s a career path available to them.

“When I show up, if I think I’ve got the best job at 3M, you can get other people excited about 3M, as well,” she said. “I have those conversations so they can see someone who is 30 years in and see that it’s possible.”

That “see it to be it” idea carries over to this year’s winner of the prestigious SWE Achievement Award, 3M’s Jayshree Seth. The award is the highest award given by SWE and is presented annually to an individual who has made significant and progressive technical contributions.

Jayshree, a corporate scientist for 3M’s Industrial Adhesives and Tapes Division and the company’s chief science advocate, was recognized for her visionary, sustainability-focused contributions to adhesives, release and fastener technologies; for creating, championing, and teaching new methodologies for product and technology development; and for deeply influential STEM advocacy, according to SWE.

It’s high praise for a successful scientist who didn’t consider herself the “science and engineering type,” she said.

For several years, Jayshree has been sharing her thoughts on science, leadership, the blending of humanities with STEM and “lots on 3M culture” via her LinkedIn account, she said.

“I was writing these things because I thought they were important and people told me they resonated,” Jayshree said.

SWE thought so, too, and helped her turn her collected essays into a book, “The Heart of Science: Engineering Footprints, Fingerprints, & Imprints.” It launched during WE20 on Amazon, with all proceeds going to a scholarship for underrepresented minorities administered by SWE.

“I’m a corporate scientist at 3M. It’s the highest science role at the company you can have,” Jayshree said. “Through my writing, I was doing advocacy, but I didn’t realize I was doing advocacy. Now with the book I am excited to take it a step further and support minority women in STEM through this scholarship.”

For Katrina, this work is another way to support and find diverse talent for 3M.

“It’s hard to see what opportunities are there if you don’t see anybody that looks like you there,” she said.

Thankfully, with help from 3M, there was a lot to see this year.

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