In this edition of REACTION Magazine, we highlight the progress chemical companies have made to help close the gender gap. We are joined by Kelly Reavis, Director Strategic Initiatives at DuPont, who discusses her own personal career journey within the chemicals industry, the importance of championing diversity at a leadership level and what DuPont is doing to support diversity and inclusion within its organization.
Kelly, thank you for joining our conversation. Let us start off by asking how you got started in the industry. Can you tell us about your first job?
My first job was with Arthur Andersen in their audit division. I went to a state school in Pennsylvania that was not visited by the prestigious firms. I organized and held a panel for our accounting society to discuss careers in the industry. A classmate had a sister that worked for Arthur Andersen and once the other firms found out Arthur Andersen was going to be there, they all sent a representative. I had an interview and an offer from quite a few and chose Arthur Andersen.
What career accomplishments are you most proud of?
I have to say that being a working mom is a real career accomplishment that I am proud of. I work hard while also prioritizing the needs of my family. I try to set an example for others that it is possible to do a great job at both. Some days are better than others, but I look back and am proud of what I have accomplished in both of these worlds that are so important to me.
During your career journey, have you had a mentor or champion for your career growth?
I had a number of mentors, each of which I am tremendously thankful for. My most effective mentors helped me understand my value, encouraged me to speak up, and challenged me to challenge my growth and advancement.
What was the most valuable career advice you have received?
“Don’t be anyone but you. And then be the best you that you can be.”
That leads us to present day, where you are currently Director Strategic Initiatives at DuPont. What would you say is the best part and the most challenging part of your role?
I am currently a leader in our SAP Central finance implementation and overall Finance Transformation at DuPont. The most challenging part of my role is moving people to coalesce around a common goal of improvement and accept that change is a necessity to move toward improvement. The best part of my role is my team. I lead an international team of highly motivated, very experienced and very talented individuals. Leading a high-performing team really brings everyone up to the top of their game and the contributions are just tremendous. I’m lucky to have them.
When you look around the global chemicals and materials industry, do you feel that there is enough representation of women and other diverse groups in senior leadership roles?
I have been so fortunate to be surrounded by successful women in leadership throughout my career at DuPont across all areas of the organization. I think this is a rarity in the industry. I am proud to be part of an organization that embraces us and recognizes the value of all people to have a seat at the table.
As a female leader yourself, do you feel greater responsibility for championing diversity? Are there specific things you are doing to support and mentor the next generation of female leaders at DuPont and in your community?
I’ve always been a relationship builder, valuing relationships as a mentor and a mentee. The key is to acknowledge that we all have unconscious bias and make sure that those you are building relationships with don’t all look like you. I do feel a responsibility to champion diversity. To repay all of those women who came before me, turned around, looked back and took my hand to pull me forward and up.
What more could be done by both the industry and government to help improve diversity? For example, how could we encourage more women to follow science-based career paths?
I’ve always been a relationship builder, valuing relationships as a mentor and a mentee. The key Studies have shown that when we show kids examples of success in industries that look like them, kids understand that career path is an option. And this understanding starts young and extends into college. Showing people there are opportunities is the first step. Building a diverse culture where people know their perspectives and contributions are valued is the second step. First find them. Then keep them. We all have to walk the walk. The talk isn’t good enough any longer. We have to prove it in our actions.
Can you tell us what DuPont is doing to support diversity and inclusion within the organization?
We can all do more. We have great programs that recognize that diversity adds value to decision making by bringing broad perspectives and ideas that you don’t get with group think. However, I think the most important thing that DuPont is doing is: DuPont recognizes that more is always needed. DuPont isn’t settling. DuPont is always looking for new ways to make sure we are doing our best.
Before we conclude, is there anything else you think is important in terms of improving diversity in the industry?
Starting younger and younger will be the key. Not only looking around at our co-workers to understand what actions we can take to improve diversity and therefore bring value to DuPont and the industry today. But what can we do to get people thinking about careers in high school, so that we can bring value to the future as well. Going to high schools where children can see adults that look like them who are engineers, scientists, etc. This encourages kids to understand what is possible.
Director Strategic Initiatives at DuPont
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The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of KPMG International Limited or any KPMG member firm.