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From Purpose to Action: Building a Sustainable Future Together
Leading the Way:
4 Women Inspiring Inclusion in STEM

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we spoke to four women at Dow who recognize the importance of continuing to drive inclusion, diversity and equity as we advance the materials-science industry.

Since 1987, the United States has celebrated Women’s History Month in March. This year’s theme, "Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion,” reminds us of the women throughout history who have fought to rid the world of bias and discrimination.

When we talk about inclusion, diversity and equity as they relate to sustainability, women in STEM is a key topic; and we want to recognize those women who have advanced STEM fields with unwavering insight and ingenuity. Take Dr. Sylvia Stoesser (1901-1991), who was the first female Ph.D. chemist to work at Dow. Stoesser joined the company in 1929 — working in the Physical Research Laboratory for more than a decade — and contributed to the development of a range of groundbreaking products, many of which we still use today.

Stoesser was followed by the likes of chemists Pauline Hopfer and Mary Thayer, who were part of a research team that changed the materials-science industry in 1942 — when their work informed an agreement that created the Dow Corning company. And in the late 1940s, research scientists Ruth Zimmerman and Helena Corsello discovered new uses for silicone materials in applications ranging from automotive to personal care to electronics.

Women in STEM have helped drive innovation in the industry ever since. In celebration of Women’s History Month, we spoke to four women at Dow — Adwoa Mansa Coleman, North America Senior Sustainability Manager of Packaging and Specialty Plastics; Kara Stoney, Marketing Manager of Value Chain Engagement and Sustainable Packaging; Rashi Tiwari, Associate Technical Service & Development Director for Films and Sustainability; and Lisa Madenjian, Technical Service & Development Fellow for Infrastructure, Consumer, & Transportation markets and Sustainability — who recognize the importance of inspiring inclusion, diversity and equity as we advance the materials-science industry.

Why is it important to you to celebrate Women’s History Month?

Adwoa Mansa Coleman: We get to shine a light on the achievements and contributions of women to society, especially in fields where they have historically been underrepresented and undervalued. It's a time to honor those who have paved the way and to inspire continued progress toward gender equality.

Rashi Tiwari: Women's History Month celebrates the countless strong, determined women like my grandmother, who overcame many challenges raising three of her children at an early age in India. Women like her have made countless contributions to and sacrifices for their families and society. It is also an opportunity to acknowledge progress and to inspire future generations of women to pursue their dreams.

Why do you think women's perspectives are vital in creating solutions in materials science?

Kara Stoney: Women's perspectives bring a holistic approach to materials science. We consider not only the technical aspects but also the human, societal and environmental impacts of the materials we create. By embracing these perspectives, we create more well-rounded and effective solutions that benefit everyone. At Dow, I see women contribute many unique perspectives that lead to high-performing, circular innovations — particularly in sustainable materials development. Their passion and knowledge are inspirational.

Coleman: Women's perspectives lead to better problem-solving and innovation. As I was the only female chemical engineer in a plant at the start of my career, I understand firsthand how bringing diverse experiences to the table can create more effective and sustainable solutions. When I first joined the team, I was preconditioned to believe that my smaller physique would be a barrier to some work. Instead of giving up, I challenged the standard operating procedures and worked with our environmental health and safety team to adapt — creating a process that was suitable for me and helped the rest of the team.

Lisa Madenjian: I believe women bring creativity, unique viewpoints and life experiences to the table. Our diverse backgrounds and perspectives lead to innovative ideas and fresh approaches in materials science — where diversity can spark breakthroughs in designing new materials, improving existing ones and addressing real-world challenges.

Can you share examples of women who have inspired you in your career?

Stoney: Throughout my career, I've been fortunate to have been surrounded by inspirational women whose paths and leadership have left a lasting impact. Each has played a unique role in shaping my professional journey. Women who lead with empathy while maintaining a clear vision for success have been a guiding light — showing me that leadership is about not only authority, but also fostering a supportive and inclusive environment where everyone can thrive.

Tiwari: One of them is my mother; I feel very fortunate to have learned from her. With grace, she balanced complicated family needs with a deep desire to help everyone. Her strong willpower, inspiring identity and nurturing nature helped her accomplish her goals. She was active in her community and always willing to connect with people to assist in solving their problems.

Madenjian: I’ve been inspired by leaders who have been confident in their conviction to make the world better by bringing their whole selves to work every day. Learning from these women about how to balance work and personal life has been essential to me. As a result of their mentorship, I take every opportunity to give back in the same spirit of inclusion and belonging that has been shown to me.

What advice would you give to young women or girls interested in STEM today?

Stoney: Seek out role models that are an inspiration in your field and surround yourself with supportive people in your life who can help guide you — that can include friends, family, teachers or mentors throughout your career. The world needs more women in STEM with unique perspectives and skills to contribute to new innovations.

Madenjian: Pursue your passion for science and dare to change the world. There is so much room to create and build a thriving career. Be curious! Ask questions, explore and don’t be afraid to dive into the unknown. Remember that every great scientific discovery began with a curious mind.

Tiwari: Go for it! Believe in yourself and your abilities, and be sure to balance your technical skills with soft skills. Join external organizations when possible and continue to work through and with people to excel in your field.

How have you seen the STEM landscape change during your career?

Coleman: I have moved from being the only female, female chemical engineer, or female manager in the room to sometimes now being in meetings entirely of women! And it’s not lost on me that this has been partially accomplished with deliberate actions to identify gaps and take targeted actions to be more diverse and inclusive. But the journey is far from over. Women remain underrepresented — especially in fields like chemical engineering and materials science — so I look forward to further change.

Stoney: I started my career over a decade ago, and one of the most noticeable shifts has been the increasing presence and visibility of women. I feel fortunate to be surrounded by a significantly larger number of women in STEM compared to when I began. This shift has been empowering — not just for individual women, but for the field as a whole.

Madenjian: There are many more women in the world of STEM today than when I started my career 30 years ago. This increase is the result of women thriving in STEM courses in school and, by extension, more women being hired into STEM careers in companies like Dow. Nonetheless, there is still much more we can do to fully embrace skills, like creativity, that women bring to the table — which could be done by offering a wider variety of skill-building to further increase diversity of thought from everyone.

What work still needs to be done to increase inclusivity for women in STEM?

Tiwari: Over the course of my career, I have seen more women entering STEM fields and taking on leadership roles; but there is still a long way to go to achieve gender parity and inclusivity in STEM. Companies and leaders need to continue to address conscious and unconscious bias, provide mentorship and sponsorship opportunities, and create a more supportive and inclusive environment for women. As a leader and as a mom, I emphasize the importance of freeing ourselves from perceived limits and encouraging an environment that values and uplifts our different strengths — bringing them to the same table. I am a big believer in owning who you are while continuing to learn.

Coleman: We must tackle systemic barriers that discourage women, especially women from underrepresented demographics, from pursuing and advancing STEM careers. This includes addressing biases in educational and professional settings; providing more visibility for role models, mentorship, sponsorship and allyship; and creating inclusive policies that acknowledge and support the challenges unique to women in STEM.

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