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An Influencer in the Paper and Wood Products Industry

When you hear the word influencer, a celebrity might be the first thing that comes to mind.

But our industry has a different kind of influencer – like Janet Lee, an electrical engineer at Essity’s Harrodsburg site in Kentucky. She's the electrical expert for both the Harrodsburg paper mill and Essity’s site in Middletown, OH. 

How is Lee an influencer? She’s breaking barriers each day she goes to work. She’s also hoping to make the journey easier for other women in engineering.

“I break barriers in gender equality every day I show up to work. I am the only female electric engineer on the site in Harrodsburg, I think I am also the only female electric engineer in the region,” Lee said. 

Lee believes women should be free to pursue whatever career path they want. 

She dreams of a day when diversification is no longer a topic of conversation and instead just exists. Because of that dream, Lee finds herself inspiring others to explore careers in engineering. 

“I have had so many people pull me aside. It’s usually a dad, saying, ‘My daughter is in high school, and she wants to join the technical field. Do you want to have dinner with us some time, so you can talk to her about it?’ I always sit back and go, ‘Wow, what an honor that this dad thinks that I could be a positive influence on some young lady that I have never even met,’” Lee reflected. 

Lee said many women inspire her. When she was young, it was women who made the news like Patsy Mink, Edith Green and Lillian and Amy Carter. Today, it’s her niece and grandmother.  

“My niece inspires me now. She is an incredible engineer, balancing work and 3 kids,” Lee said. She added, “And my grandmother, who celebrated the ratification of the 19th Amendment as a young girl and made me promise to always vote or she would come back and haunt me.” 

Today, Lee is excited for the future of manufacturing. She looks forward to the technology advancements but still loves the daily problem-solving and freedom to be creative. 

And she is still focused on continuing to break barriers and inspiring others. This has not gone unnoticed. 

For her leadership within Essity and her community, Lee is one of 100 women who have been named a 2022 STEP Ahead Honoree by the Manufacturing Institute. This national honor is a key component of the STEP Women’s Initiative, an industry-wide effort to close the gender gap in manufacturing through mentorship and support. 

When you hear the word influencer now, maybe you’ll think of the influencers in the manufacturing world who are igniting curiosity for future female engineers. 

“I feel proud to represent female engineers,” Lee said. “Not just for myself but for my daughters and for the generations to come. You don’t realize how you could be influencing people.”

The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) serves to advance U.S. paper and wood products manufacturers through fact-based public policy and marketplace advocacy. The forest products industry is circular by nature. AF&PA member companies make essential products from renewable and recyclable resources, generate renewable bioenergy and are committed to continuous improvement through the industry’s sustainability initiative —Better Practices, Better Planet 2030: Sustainable Products for a Sustainable Future. The forest products industry accounts for approximately 5% of the total U.S. manufacturing GDP, manufactures about $350 billion in products annually and employs about 925,000 people. The industry meets a payroll of about $65 billion annually and is among the top 10 manufacturing sector employers in 43 states. Visit AF&PA online at or follow us on Twitter @ForestandPaper