Brave Conversations About Diversity in the Paper and Wood Products Industry
AF&PA Members Share Their Thoughts on How DEI&B Shows Up in the Industry
“Diversity in any industry creates visible representation. That visual representation allows outsiders to see themselves in an industry and the work that is being done,” said Gabrielle Evans, who goes by Gabbie.
We sat down with her, Marcez Mitchell and Marlon Jones from International Paper to talk about diversity in the paper and wood products industry.
We asked for their candid thoughts on how they celebrate Black History Month, where they draw inspiration and what working in this industry means to them.
What Does Diversity Mean to You and Why Is it Important to Highlight?
“To me, diversity is the opportunity to succeed utilizing your talents no matter your color, national origin or sexual orientation. A level playing field. We need to cultivate and harvest diversity in order to achieve success.” – Marlon Jones, Manager International Distribution Ops, International Distribution
“I have several diverse attributes that intersect my identity. Each of these attributes contribute to my unique viewpoint. A diverse industry, to me, means an industry that embraces uniqueness and sees it as a superpower for higher levels of success.” – Gabbie Evans, Diversity & Inclusion Consultant.
What Does the Paper and Wood Products Industry Mean to Your Family?
“This is my profession and way of life. My grandfather worked 50 years in a plywood mill in Texas. The plywood mill is actually where I got my start working as a summer hire trying to earn money to put myself through college.” – Marlon Jones
“This industry affects every individual and family because it is essential to our livelihood. Our products create access to feminine hygiene products, provide food to stores and homes, help deliver critical materials to hospitals and so much more. This industry is necessary, and it remains an essential part of my daily life.” – Gabbie Evans
“The satisfaction that comes from this industry is in full alignment with my family’s culture. My great grandfather began his career as a short wood logger. He and his brothers worked hard and eventually were able to purchase several hundred acres of land, which has become our family farm. When I had the opportunity to work in the forest industry, it was an easy decision to proceed full speed ahead.” - Marcez Mitchell, General Manager, Bag & Molded Fiber
Who Has Inspired You Throughout Your Career?
“There are a lot of leaders who inspire me. I try to gain knowledge from them to shape my character. A few are General Lloyd 'Fig' Newton for being a trailblazer, Coach Willie Jeffries for his character and humor, Barack Obama for poise, General Colin Powell for discipline and aura and Leon Hardison for determination.” – Marlon Jones
“One particular leader that comes to mind is a retired team member from International Paper, Bathsheba Sams. She told me something that I will never forget. She said, 'You were placed in that room for a reason. Do not let the lack of representation deter you from your purpose. Someone gave you a seat at the table because they believe you can add value. So, do just that.'” – Gabbie Evans
“Luckily, I had a cousin with similar interests whom I looked up to that graduated from Clemson with a forestry degree. He used his education to be a force for good in our hometown and established a minority forestry camp for our local high schools. I am proud to celebrate 22 years of service with International Paper. I can wholeheartedly say I owe it to my cousin, Alex Singleton.” – Marcez Mitchell
What is Your Dream for Black and African-American Workers in the Paper and Wood Products Industry?
“My dream is everyone has a fair chance to compete and succeed. We do not need favoritism, just a level playing field.” – Marlon Jones
“My dream for Black team members in this industry is for each of them to feel like they have a place here – that they belong. I dream of a version of this industry where there is visible representation of not only Black people but diversity in all its forms.” – Gabbie Evans
Read more stories from Black voices in the paper and wood products industry.
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Tyrone, a military veteran, shared what it was like to be part of the pandemic response.
Dorian shared why she always votes and encourages others to do the same.