As an innovations company, we are keenly aware of the impact STEM-related education has on our associate talent worldwide. It is through the lens of science and technology we are able to advance our work as a global manufacturer.
On February 11, people from around the world will celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This day of advocacy highlights the importance of diversity in this often-underrepresented sector. According to the United Nations (UN), women earn 57% of all college degrees, but only 35% of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees.
To recognize women in science, we spoke with two of our associates who are in STEM-related fields here at Milliken to explore what their career path looked like and how their contributions have made an impact. Amy Brooks, a Product Portfolio Manager for Westex by Milliken, and Emily Michaels, a Research Manager for the Performance and Protective Textiles Division, share more.
Tell usa bit about your current position.
Amy Brooks: I am a Product Portfolio Manager for Westex by Milliken, which means I am responsible for positioning our extensive flame resistant (FR) fabric portfolio for continuous growth and success. To ensure we are providing the market with the best FR solutions, I work closely with our customers and all internal business functions to help identify areas for innovation to help advance our product portfolio.
Emily Michaels: My current role is Research Manager for the engineered performance products business in the Performance and Protective Textiles Division. Our team is tasked with launching a new technology platform to answer unmet needs in strategic markets. It is a challenging task, but we have some very exciting opportunities the team is working hard to bring to market.
How do you utilize science at Milliken? Why is it important in your role?
AB: At Westex by Milliken, our wide-spread portfolio of arc and flame resistant (AR/FR) fabrics include various types of fibers, yarns and FR technologies. Science plays a key role in every step of the process, from developing advanced proprietary processes and patented technologies to assembling the engineers responsible for production. My role is to harness the power of our scientific capabilities to deliver the best possible AR/FR fabrics to the marketplace. It’s science that saves lives!
EM: Science is at the heart of what I do here at Milliken. It could be everything from running experiments to analyzing data or collaborating with colleagues. I learn something new every day and that is at the heart of what science is all about. There is a great deal of creativity that comes with science, which inspires us to provide new and sustainable solutions. Our answers to these questions lead to new opportunities for Milliken and new products for our customers.
How did you prepare for a career in science?
AB: I received my BS in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Auburn University. I enjoy working with complex processes and seeing the result of how optimizing a process or system can positively impact an organization. I started my career in manufacturing with Milliken, and I was focused on process improvement and production management at one of our plants. I then moved into a practitioner role with our consulting group, where I was able to help other companies improve their operations by implementing safety and operational excellence programs. My most recent roles have been centered around business process improvement and product management. Throughout my entire career, I have interacted with different people, products, technologies and processes, but science is always critical in how we solve problems.
EM: I have been preparing for a career in science my whole life! I think it starts with a sense of curiosity and wonder about the world around you. As I worked my way through school, I found I was drawn specifically to chemistry. After obtaining my bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biochemistry, I worked in the industry for two years before returning to school to obtain my Ph.D. I then did a post-doctoral fellowship at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico before coming to work at Milliken.
Why is it important for women to explore science-related fields?
AB: Women should explore roles in engineering- or science-related fields because the work is both challenging and enriching. In my roles here at Milliken, I have been able to positively affect so many lives — not only through my direct interaction with other associates, suppliers and customers, but with the variety of products we manufacture.
EM: As a mother of three daughters, I think it is incredibly important for women to explore science-related fields especially if your passion leads you in this direction. I was fortunate to be raised in a home where my interests were encouraged. I believe this is critical to do with all children — allow them to explore the world and celebrate their inquisitiveness. It is fascinating to imagine where their curiosity will lead them and explore the problems they will solve along the way.
How has science enhanced your professional career?
AB: My engineering and technical background has been the backbone for my entire career. I lean on all of my experiences and past roles to tackle new challenges that come my way.
EM: Science has enhanced my professional career because it has taught me how to approach challenges in a very organized and systematic way. My education in science has taught me not to be intimidated by what I don’t know, but rather, how to quickly assess and learn all I can about a new opportunity or problem to solve. An education in science doesn’t teach you what to think, but how to think. In my opinion, there is no better training for a successful and rewarding professional career.