A seat at the table
Aug 10, 2020

With diversity and inclusion as key values, 3M empowers women to take ownership of their careers. We sat down with 3Mers Priyanka Nepal, Pam Dupre, Brooke Ortega and Marilyn Schullo to talk about the support they've felt while pursuing professional growth and personal fulfillment.

Inspired to blaze a new trail

In 2017, Priyanka Nepal quit her full-time job to take a contract position with 3M. “I knew of people who had stayed with 3M for 30 years, and I just couldn’t understand how that was possible. ‘What’s going on over there?’ I wondered. I had to see for myself.” 

Just months into her assignment, Pria was hired full-time. “I received encouragement at every turn to shape my own experience, and I eventually found my way to a team that really suits my goals and vision. I’m lucky to feel fully supported by everybody here at 3M and deeply inspired by the work we do.”

Now a 3M marketing analytics and business intelligence leader, Pria originally came to the United States as an international student. “Right away, I knew I wanted to be a part of the Women’s Leadership Forum (WLF), 3M’s Employee Resource Network for women, and now it feels like home.”

Growth through experience

Pam Dupre, a People Relations & Inclusion manager, is one of those 30-year strong 3Mers Pria had heard about. When she accepted her first position in 1986, Pam was a working, single mom who wasn’t specifically seeking an emphasis on diversity and inclusion in the workplace. “I was attracted to 3M simply because it was one of the best companies to work for in Minnesota.”

In Pam’s experience, she has witnessed 3M consistently providing options for women — and listening to what they need to succeed.

“3M supports people who want to focus in one field and those who are curious about taking their expertise from one field to another,” added Pam. “At every stage of my career with 3M, the attitude has always been, ‘How can we help you grow?’”

“If we only looked for one perspective, we couldn’t compete at the level we do.” —Pam Dupre, 3M manager

Committed to excellence

Brooke Ortega, global safety training and education curriculum specialist for 3M's Personal Safety Division, began as part of an acquisition from another company.

Seeing the lack of women in executive leadership at her previous company made the contrast with 3M’s culture of inclusivity that much more striking.

“I’ll never forget the first WLF newsletter I received as a 3Mer,” she said. “I remember sitting at my desk and thinking, ‘I’m not crazy after all! There are companies willing to lead their talent management strategy with diversity and inclusion in mind.’”

Brooke described this moment as an “experience of finally feeling seen and heard” for who she was and what mattered to her. But that sense of visibility and acknowledgment only deepened once she started participating in the forum.

“The WLF has exposed me to a variety of personal and professional development opportunities,” said Brooke. “I'm grateful for the events and education centered around advancing women at 3M, and I feel very valued as a member of our WLF leadership team.”

People helping people

Marilyn Schullo, vice president, Plant Operations in the U.S. and Canada, is a second generation 3Mer, but that’s not why she wanted to work at 3M.

 What initially drew her to 3M was the culture and spirit of innovation, and people helping people. Starting out as an Optimized Operations (O2) intern, she learned quickly that 3Mers were always willing to help.

“If I called someone to find out how to do something, they would not only answer my question but give me the names of one or two other people who were world experts in that area. As a junior employee, having people be so gracious and helpful in providing answers was amazing,” Marilyn said.

Marilyn described the culture of integrity and innovation of 3Mers as infectious. “I feel privileged to have been a part of the O2 program early in my career. It really built my belief that every problem is solvable,” she explained.

Beyond learning leadership skills in her own career progression, Marilyn enjoys attending programs put on by the WLF and mentoring diverse employees. “Anytime that you can listen to new perspectives, it helps you become a better leader,” she added.

“We operate on the belief that a rising tide raises all ships.” —Brooke Ortega, 3M specialist

How supporting women benefits 3M

Pria was recently appointed Diversity & Inclusion lead for the WLF — a role created in 2020 to balance the intersectionality of women across all nine of 3M’s Employee Resource Networks.

“I don’t think a lot of companies are even aware of these issues, let alone concerned about creating roles to address them,” she said. “Our WLF programming is rooted in science, industry trends and employee surveys.”

“We operate on the belief that a rising tide raises all ships,” Brooke agreed. “These intersectional initiatives exist to make sure everyone gets a chance to use their voice. If we hone in on voices that haven’t always been heard within our organization, we stand a chance of meeting everyone else’s needs, too.” 

“Supporting women is such an important part of recognizing and celebrating different backgrounds,” said Pam. “We’re a global company, and if we only looked for one perspective, we couldn’t compete at the level we do. Instead, we embrace our similarities and our differences. Individually, we might not be able to see that full picture. But together? We’re pretty incredible.”

Marilyn agreed, and said 3M has come so far since she started. “The progress 3M has made over the last 35 years has been amazing to watch. The first female manufacturing leader was hired in 2000. Now there are many women leaders in 3M manufacturing and supply chain. With this momentum, we’ll continue to make even more progress.”

Looking ahead: girls in STEM

As passionate as Pria, Pam, Brooke and Marilyn collectively feel about the opportunities 3M offers its employees, they became even more animated when the topic turned to how the company champions women and girls who live in 3M communities.

“3M places a huge focus on STEM — specifically girls in STEM,” said Brooke. “We bring kids into our facilities so they can experience a day in the life of a scientist and take science experiments right into classrooms with 3M Visiting Wizards.”

“This outreach helps get kids excited not only about science, but also about 3M,” added Pam. “We work with some of these kids all the way through high school, and help them prepare for college, find potential careers and write effective resumes.”

Marilyn also pointed out the importance of the involvement of plants in their local communities. “3M is a major employer in these small towns, and some of them wouldn’t have access to certain resources without 3M. Being intentional about how we encourage volunteerism, sponsor grants and holistically give back to the communities where our people live and work is a core value for our plant leadership teams,” she explained.

“We want all kids to grow up having valuable experiences they can draw on throughout their lives,” Pria continued. “The emphasis might be on women and girls in these initiatives … but ultimately, we want to make a positive universal impact.”

For more information on 3M’s Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, visit our Careers site

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