When I first met Susan Stipa, I had no idea she was a chemical engineer let alone that she had worked in the world of Pharma. During my first encounter meeting Susan, I stood in a desolate lobby building waiting upon her arrival. Within minutes, this petite, red-headed woman walked in, phone to cheek and talking a million miles a minute. After seeing my face, it took one look for her to quickly end the call. Walking towards me with both arms wide open, she gave me the warmest greeting any stranger has given me.
From that very first day, I learned that Susan was simply a fellow mother, full of energy, curious and also wildly empathetic. She was always sharing stories of traveling to Philadelphia with four children at home, as I sought to find a position that would allow me to be home with my children, one of which was a toddler at the time.
After being at McDay for about 2 years now, I now know that Susan is a powerhouse in pharma, who reads 4-5 books a week (see, still curious), including the latest one she mentioned, Wine and War, and Spying on Whales. Susan has created this company, McDay, that as she puts it, to be about life. “Work is work, life is life,” is how Susan phrases it. I get the sense that she relishes creating a new working world for women in science – she vividly tells the story of not even being comfortable sharing the pregnancy of her first child with her fluoropolymer company co-workers in 1989.
It was rare for women to work in chemical engineering back then. (I looked it up: “the ASME.org site says: “Although the number of female engineers today has greatly improved since the early 1980s, when only 5.8% of engineers in the U.S. were women, it’s still surprisingly low. Currently, only 14% of engineers are women, according to the Congressional Joint Economic Committee.”)
That was in 2012 and later information says we were up to 21.8% in 2017. But Susan has explained that this percentage includes computer science engineers, which has increased significantly. Female chemical engineers are still a small portion of the population and Susan aims to change that! Our COO at McDay is an industrial engineer, Jennifer Cresswell, who works so hard keeping us all sane, and handles a young child at home as well. And, many of our technical writers also have engineering degrees!
Sometimes I think about what Susan Stipa faced in the 80s, as a female chemical engineer. Maybe part of her drive to create such a new age 2020 working environment stems from always looking for solutions, as an engineer. Her natural scientific creativity and openness to finding fresh solutions to scientific problems has Susan able to banter about liquid-liquid extraction and protein characterization in the same breath with childcare tips and new recipes!
I tuck a warm hat onto the blonde locks of my now second child, a little girl, and wish for her to study science, but more importantly, I aim to teach my children curiosity and empathy. After all, I see it every day; they really do go hand-in-hand.
-Emily Steinhauer, Account Manager, McDay