For the Women at Westlake, Affinity Wins

For Renee Havrilla, the chemical industry is home

December 15, 2021 - by +Vantage Vinyl
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For the Women at Westlake, Affinity Wins

“The WoW affinity group allows us to come together, learn from each other, and create space within the industry.” - Renee Havrilla, VP, Global Compounds, Westlake

A chemist by training, Havrilla has spent over 30 years in the industry and today runs a global division for Westlake Chemical Corporation as VP of Compounds.

Westlake produces innovative rigid and flexible vinyl compounds for the automotive, healthcare, consumer and the building and construction industries. However, when she first joined the industry in the early 1990s, there were few women to count in the executive ranks.

As she made her way up the ladder over the next couple of decades, she realized one thing quickly: that women could be more successful if they supported each other.

At Westlake, one of the first things she noticed was that there wasn’t a forum for women to interact with each other. So, in the fall of 2018, she decided to invite all the women who worked at the Houston, Texas campus, at the supervisory levels and up, to join her for an informal meet and greet.

Women of Westlake (WoW) soon morphed into peer-to-peer coaching, informal mentorships, and the mission to create opportunities for the women of Westlake to strengthen business relationships, grow professionally and personally, and build successful careers at Westlake.  Today, the group has around 50 members and conducts monthly meetings, with a pre-decided agenda, a mix of TED talks or guest speakers, and always some time for open floor.

 Despite the virtual component, the group maintains its intimacy with many of the women reaching out to each other for advice and camaraderie on a regular basis. Havrilla’s colleague Julie Hildebrand, a chemical engineer with over twenty years of experience in the chemicals industry, and a business manager at the Houston office, agrees.

 “Westlake has done a great job of recognizing that they could do more to build upon diversity as an asset. WoW has elevated the platform to support professional growth for women in the organization,” she says.

 So much so that there are now several other informal women groups in process across Westlake. And that’s invaluable.

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