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Women in Titanium First Conference Exceeds Expectations

ORLANDO, Florida — Dawne Hickton, the president of the International Titanium Association's (ITA) board of directors, welcomed attendees to the first Women in Titanium (WiT) Conference, the opening event in the annual ITA TITANUM Conference and Exhibition, held at Rosen Shingle Creek Golf Resort.  Marking the significance of the WiT gathering, Hickton gave credit to the "grass roots" support of ITA members for making the event a reality.

Hickton recalled that, last year at the ITA conference held in Chicago, she was approached by various female members of the organization, who expressed an interest in forming a networking group to support and mentor women employed in the titanium industry. The grass roots membership also identified a need to create a networking mechanism to encourage young women at colleges and universities to consider a career in the titanium industry, as well as promote STEM educational curriculum in science, technology and engineering. It was this sentiment that made WiT a reality, she declared.

"This is a reflection of what we can do as an organization," Hickton said, addressing the WiT assembly. Ultimately, she said the effort reflects the underlying concept of promoting leadership throughout the ITA and creating the opportunity to identify role models in a diverse industry association.

According to Hickton, the WiT mentoring efforts will extend not only to outreach programs for young women considering careers in the titanium industry, but also to women currently employed in the field of titanium. She identified a need to “mentor ourselves; what we need in order to get ahead in this industry. You need to have people you trust that you can call and ask: 'How do I deal with this?'” As such, she recalled her own mentors over the years, mostly men in senior executive positions, “who took an interest in me and my career.” Hickton served as chief executive officer, president and vice chair of RTI from 2007 to 2015.

Hickton said that, during her career as a senior-level executive, she opened herself to being a mentor to others, especially women. “I encourage all of us to do the same,” she said. She underlined the importance of having a trusted mentor to offer feedback on career and life issues. Speaking as a successful female executive as well as the mother of six children, she has encountered the myths, stress and expectations placed on women to “have it all”—or in her words, be expected to “do it all.”

When balancing business careers, life and family responsibilities, the reality is that women (and men) “can’t have it all. You shouldn’t have to do it all alone. The ‘home job’ (family life) is another profession. You need a support system. Sometimes you need to step back (from your career duties) when you have difficulties or a crisis at home.”

She offered a revealing slate of bar chart statistics, compiled in 2013 by the U.S. Department of Labor. In the current American business environment, she noted that women and men have relatively equal numbers when it came to total employment in the workforce (outside the home), however men occupy 71 percent of executive and senior level management positions, compared with just 29 percent for women. In U.S. manufacturing industries—the sector that includes the titanium market—men represent 74 percent of the workforce compared with 26 percent for women, and men hold 85 percent of executive and senior level management positions.

Hickton asked the WiT participants to consider four message “bullet points”: 1.) Position yourself for business opportunities and apply for the right positions that suit your career aspirations; 2.) Don’t be afraid to ask about career openings in your organization. In other words, don’t wait for others to “consider” you, as they might not be aware of your interests and ambitions; 3.) For all those who are in a position of power and influence in a given organization, take the initiative to be an agent of change—have the courage and conviction to be the individual to make change happen; 4.) Cultivate a support network at home and in the workplace.

Michael C. Gabriele is an independent freelance writer on behalf of the International Titanium Association (ITA) .  Jennifer Simpson is the executive director of the International Titanium Association (ITA)


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