Mar 30th 2024

Novolex Panel Spotlights Several Women to Share Tricks of the Trade for Inspiring Inclusion & Promoting Career Growth

To commemorate International Women’s Day, Novolex hosted its fifth annual International Women’s Day Conference that included a panel discussing inclusion and spotlighting a few of the many incredible women at Novolex who raise the bar for women in industry everywhere. The virtual conference began with opening remarks from Novolex Chairman and CEO Stan Bikulege, who shared what International Women’s Day and the 2024 theme, inspiring inclusion, means to him.

Stan discussed how he has personally witnessed the impact of biases against women in the workforce. He highlighted the experience of a family member who, despite being a pediatrician with a medical degree, is often mistaken by patients for a nurse. These experiences, along with the stories shared by the women on the panel, inspire Stan to advocate for an inclusive environment and to recognize the valuable contributions of every individual.

The anecdote that Stan shared is not uncommon, but these types of hurdles have not stopped Adrienne Smith from working tirelessly to achieve her full potential. Adrienne started at Novolex in 2010 at the Novolex manufacturing facility in Richmond, Virginia, where her passion for leading people and willingness to go the extra mile when needed quickly propelled her to supervisor on the production floor. Last year, Adrienne was promoted to plant manager at the facility where she continues to thrive.

Adrienne was joined on the panel by Amber Washnock, Vice President of Human Resources, and Tracy Bates, Director of Corporate Quality, to discuss how inclusion has affected their professional experiences. Both Amber and Tracy have navigated work-life balance, eventually having to make difficult career decisions to accommodate the needs of their families.

When Amber decided it was time to temporarily down-shift her career, she joined Novolex in a Human Resources position that was challenging but not quite as demanding as her previous role; a much better fit for what her family needed at the time. “Since then, I’ve had wonderful leaders at Novolex who have helped me grow in a way that didn't demand me to be gone 24/7 from my kids, home, and husband,” shared Amber.

When she started a family, Tracy was running a small business unit in a large manufacturing facility at another company. She was able to job-share a position for several years, and then, when she felt ready to go back to work full-time, she accepted a position at Novolex. At first, Tracy struggled with feeling like she was losing personal and professional growth momentum by taking slower paced role earlier in her career. Amber shared that sentiment but views these work-live balance decisions as redirection to something better. “It was that hectic job that introduced me to the people at Novolex, and I likely wouldn’t have grown into my current leadership role here had I not gone through that experience,” shared Amber.

All the panelists reflected on the defining moments of their careers and the important lessons they’ve learned that might help other women on similar journeys. Emma Wise, Sales Director at Waddington Europe, encouraged others to progress and grow by learning something new. Each year, Emma takes a new training course – whether that be in mental health, brand psychology, or the MBA essentials course she is currently enrolled in. “What I like most about working at Novolex is that we support the opportunity for people to grow,” said Emma. Amber, too, encourages others to view their career as a journey and continue to work on yourself along the way. She believes that asking for feedback, being open and receptive to what people say, and taking emotions out of the process are key to professional growth.

Adrienne also spoke to the importance of authenticity in the workplace. While solid work habits, communication, teamwork, and other skills are critically important, she believes that the ability to show up to work as yourself is paramount. “I’ve been able to be comfortable in every level of this organization, whether on the production floor, leading folks or running an entire facility, I've been able to build intentional relationships along the way.” Adrienne credits those intentional relationships with her success today.

Through Stan’s opening remarks, a keynote speech by the Founding Executive Director at Ownership Works, an inclusion panel led by the incredible women of Novolex, and several breakout sessions to dig in deeper, Novolex spent International Women’s Day amplifying women’s voices and discussing how to inspire inclusion. This month, and every month, Novolex honors the contributions of women across the organization.