When you are one of the few females to head a business in a predominantly male chemical industry, it’s not uncommon to be asked about that one person or incident that was crucial to your success. Like many, I had one of those people. It almost sounds cliché, but it was my high school principal. This was back in the time when young women—even those with better-than-average grades and an avid interest in math and science—were either not encouraged or flatly discouraged from thinking of careers in such fields.

This teacher did not agree. One day she took me aside and handed me a book entitled, I Dare You! and told me to read it. Her message was simple. I dare you to do what you really want to do, and I dare you to do your best and succeed.

  • Work hard.
  • Learn.
  • Use the talents you were born with and that you have sharpened in school.
  • Don’t shrink from risk or adversity.
  • Tap into your passion for what you do.
  • Succeed, and have fun.

Fortunately, the workplace has come a very long way in pushing out old barriers of gender and race. I believe the forces of economics will continue to demand this. Simply put: competition and the need for top talent is so great that organizations that allow such barriers to remain do so at their own peril. Indeed, there are many business studies now that document that the most successful, innovative companies not only allow diversity, but embrace it by purposely creating diverse work teams.

So, when I mentor young women coming up in this business today, I pass on the same message I received. Talent and hard work are still the drivers. Passion for what you do is your fuel. This combination is the best way to achieve success.

There will be trade-offs and setbacks throughout a career; but for each of these, there are many more opportunities.