The following is a summary with excerpts from a TAPPI article about our President, Nicki Slusser. This article appeared in the November/December 2014 edition of the Paper360 magazine in a special series entitled Proud to be a Papermaker, and it highlights how the paper industry has changed over the past 35 years to include more women managers. Most notably, Nicki was the first woman president of the Paper Industry Management Association (PIMA).
“Back then, I was the only woman in the mill,” Nicki says about joining Mead Corporation in 1979. “Things are different today than when I went to work.” She got her degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Kentucky, and this is her 36th year in the paper industry. She has served on the Board of Directors of The Technological Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI). During her career she has had several titles and roles for Champion Paper and International Paper, which included Mill Manager and Capital Manager.
Nicki acknowledges that what has long been a male-dominated industry is changing, although there are “still some undertones that you have to work through,” she says. “More and more women are getting engineering and technical degrees, making them more suited for these types of roles. I know some women today who are just ‘killing it’.”
In the article, Nicki speaks highly of her time on the TAPPI board and feels that the association has recovered significantly from just a few years ago. “The blending of TAPPI and PIMA added a necessary management element to what was for years a very technical organization.”
Despite her rise through the ranks, Nicki doesn’t consider herself a groundbreaker, saying, “I don’t think I did anything great. Whatever I did just made the step easier for the next person. Women are perfectly capable of running businesses and mills and we will see more and more, if we can meet the challenge of attracting young people into the industry – both male and female. I’m concerned about who is going to be here to do the jobs when we are gone.”