Unfortunately, women in this industry have to establish their reputations over time, prove their integrity and show that they can do the work.
Barbara Haviland Minor '81 helped reduce the environmental impact of the automobile industry in an unlikely space — the air-conditioning system. She, along with chemical engineers at Honeywell and DuPont Fluorochemicals in Wilmington, Del., where she's worked for more than 30 years, led the development of a low-global-warming automobile refrigerant that's used in an estimated 3 million vehicles worldwide, including in Europe and the United States.
The refrigerant, Opteon YF, took 10 years of research and development to bring to fruition, and is perhaps Minor's greatest professional achievement to date, but it's certainly not the only one.
Since 1989, Minor, who holds 130 U.S. patents, has worked on chemical formulations for several products that address global climate change, and that career, made up of many milestones, has brought her into a very small club. In 2014, she became one of only five women in DuPont's 200-year history to be given the title of DuPont Fellow, a prestigious ranking within the company that indicates the highest level of technical achievement.
Minor graduated from Bucknell with a degree in chemical engineering and has spent her career at DuPont in various positions, including work in technical service, manufacturing, business analysis, and research and development. There are just 33 Fellows within the company of 58,000 employees. They meet monthly, primarily to discuss ways in which to collaborate across DuPont, conduct outreach outside the company and mentor younger employees - an important role for a woman in a STEM field.
The barriers for women in science are beginning to come down, says Minor, pointing to DuPont's current CEO, fluorochemicals global business director and North American business director — all women. The field of air conditioning and refrigeration remains male-dominated, however. At industry conferences, she is often one of the only women to speak on the topic of refrigerants.
"Unfortunately, women in this industry have to establish their reputations over time, prove their integrity and show that they can do the work," she says.
But thanks to women like Minor working at the highest levels of STEM-centered careers, young women entering these fields have inspiring examples to follow.
Posted April 2015
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