Spotlight: PPG’s Women Leadership Council
Diane Kappas is vice president, Americas, automotive original equipment manufacturer (OEM) coatings and a founding member of PPG’s Women’s Leadership Council. Diane started her career with PPG in 1986 and shares the challenges and opportunities she encountered over the course of her career and how STEM education can lead to bigger and bolder career options.
PPG’s Women's Leadership Council was created in 2001 and you were one of the founding members. Why did you decide to help form this Council?
In 2001, there were fewer female leaders in most executive business or functional roles in the company, and we understood that if we needed to attract and retain a broad spectrum of diverse talent we needed to change. We thought it was critical to understand how to change the culture, attract more female leaders and develop those women to accelerate their advancement within the company.
What were some of the challenges your team faced getting the council formed?
At the time I was part of the corporate human resources organization and responsible for diversity initiatives across the company. The biggest challenge was educating executive leadership of the issues and challenges that women face differently than men in the workplace. We proposed a Women's Leadership Council as one way to bring attention and focus to these areas of difference.
What role has the Women's Leadership Council played in your career development?
Interesting fact: I proposed the creation of the council in 2001, but in 19 years, I've never actually been a council member. However, over the years, I participated in many career events, panel discussions and I’ve mentored many women. So for me, I really enjoy the opportunity to share my experiences and help other women in the organization think about their career choices and how they can be more successful based on whatever experience I can share with them.
Have you personally faced obstacles in the course of your career particularly within the manufacturing industry?
It's probably safe to say that in the majority of my career roles at PPG, I’ve been the first woman to ever have that position. That alone can be challenging, but earlier in my career, I would say it was more challenging. With very few women in manufacturing roles or even in leadership roles at that time, I felt the need to work harder to demonstrate I was as capable as a man in the same role. But that kind of wasted energy shouldn’t happen. The Women's Leadership Council continues to drive the message that females can be as successful as men in any given role.
What are the current opportunities and challenges for women in technology science or manufacturing?
I see tremendous opportunities. A STEM education prepares you for a variety of careers. The skills you learn in STEM-based courses help teach the fundamentals of problem solving, managing complexity, critical and strategic thinking. The challenge for women in STEM roles has always been getting girls excited about these fields at a young age. PPG works with several organizations to promote STEM programs encouraging young girls to pursue STEM careers. I encourage more PPG women to engage in these volunteer efforts.
Women in PPG can look at the organization today and see high-level female executives. Several PPG female leaders have STEM education backgrounds. Executive Vice President Rebecca Liebert leveraged her STEM background to achieve career success beyond her engineering career roots. I think it's great for women who come into our company with a STEM education to see examples of women who have been successful and are achieving at a very high level.
And how important is it for women to lift each other up?
I think it's paramount that women in leadership roles continue to reach into the organization and mentor other women, speak to women's groups, and model the right behavior so they can look to senior successful women and see effective leadership.
Early in my career, I don't think companies took the same risks with women they took with men in providing greater levels of responsibility. But I think that has changed dramatically in 34 years, which is a really good story.
Today, I don't see a difference between how we view women and men in their careers at PPG. We are reaching parity in terms of opportunity and challenges no matter a person’s gender.
Diversity of leadership is critical for us; it brings different perspectives to help our company be much more successful and reflective of our customer base. It just makes good business sense to have an inclusive work environment with a diverse population.