Why is Black History Month important to you?
While I accept the concept of Black History Month, I truly wish that we would teach ‘complete’ history in schools – not as a separate and limited idea. I say this for ALL minority history. Can we get to a point where the following is taught to all students from the beginning:
How did you land in manufacturing? What are you most proud of about working in manufacturing? What industry innovations have you been a part of during the pandemic?
I grew up in St. John Parish, Louisiana. I was surrounded by the manufacturing industry. There was not a household where at least one male wasn’t working in the industry. My father worked for Godchaux Sugar and finished his career as a shift supervisor for Nalco Chemicals. When it came time for college, my mother strongly pushed for me to choose something technical as I was very good in math and the sciences. She told me that as an African-American female, she had only two college choices – nursing or teaching. She had wished for more and therefore wanted more for her only daughter. Ultimately, I chose chemical engineering after a summer minority engineering program at Georgia Tech.
While I was not personally involved, I am extremely proud of the work that my company, Dow, did during the pandemic. Early on, we converted some of our processes to produce hand sanitizer and developed PPE solutions such as face shields, medical isolation gowns and powered air-purifying respirators.
What impact did the George Floyd murder and subsequent protests have on you?
For me personally, it made me realize that I had not done enough to prepare my daughter for the country she lived in. She had been sheltered from the realities and now it was slapping her in the face. It reminded me that the struggle never ends. The struggle had not been as visible as it was in the 1960s but it was still happening. We have overcome so much, but there is still so much to do.
What is your identity lens?
I don’t believe I have ever thought of myself as a woman without thinking of myself as a Black woman. This goes back to what my parents taught me at a very young age. ‘I was who God wanted me to be and I was where God wanted me to be. God was my Father but had placed me with my family to nurture me on Earth. All I needed to do was be the best Crystal I could be, no one else.’
Do you feel that you have experienced more challenges and impediments because you are black or a manufacturing woman?
In my manufacturing career, it has been obvious that I am judged differently than the males in the room, especially white males.
Has race and gender played a critical role in your selection of mentors and sponsors? If so, what impact has this decision had on your career success?
Early in my career, I realized that I had to surround myself with the people who were in charge. Those people were not African-American. So while I did seek out African-American mentors and sponsors, I also looked for people who represented the majority to place in my circle. As a black woman in the manufacturing industry, it was important to have white allies from inside and outside of the company.
How do we get more young African American women to pursue a career in manufacturing?
We must reach out to black girls earlier if we want them to pursue a career in manufacturing. I believe that we must reach out to them as early as middle school to let them know of the possibilities, to let them know what to study; but mostly we have to let them see people who look like them in these roles.
What is one thing you wish manufacturers did or knew to retain black talent in the industry better?
I wish everyone, not just manufacturers, acknowledged that Black talent is treated differently. After awareness comes implementing appropriate programs to eradicate the behavior. Hold leaders accountable for noticing and acting.
Any recommendations on must-see movies or television shows?
If the question is related to African American movies, I strongly suggest Hidden Figures. The story of these three ladies and their contribution to our space program remains inspiring. For me, I am more of a book reader. Considering the current racial awakening in the country I would suggest the following:
I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown
Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho