The waste industry is seeing more women in leadership roles and an increase in women in operational roles, traditionally a male dominated field. The move towards a more feminized industry is occurring as the image of the waste industry as a whole is ever-changing. What was once seen as a ‘dirty’ industry is now recognized as one of the cleanest and greenest fields to work in – having a greater purpose than ever before.
The Clean Earth Women at Work program highlights the contributions of the women at Clean Earth, placing a unique emphasis on growth and opportunity where women can excel, through encouragement and creating awareness. We are eager to bring our expertise to help more women enter and succeed in the industry.
Melanie started at Clean Earth 20 years ago. She was attending school full-time at Wayne State University when her lab partner informed her of a position opening at PSC. Melanie initially thought this position would be a great way to build her resume and make some extra money around her busy school schedule. She thought that her position would be a temporary one, but little did she know that she would eventually fall into the industry “by accident”. Melanie’s initial career path was to work in the crime lab as a forensic scientist but changed her major to Environmental Management after discovering her knack for environmental science. She began to recognize how complex the waste industry can be. After a short period working in the laboratory, she transferred to the shipping and receiving division. This position sparked her curiosity – what were we doing with this waste once it arrived here? Melanie found an opportunity and transferred to a Materials Management position and eventually to the Environmental Health & Safety division. After five years, she discovered that her passion lies in her expertise in governmental requirements and regulatory compliance. After many years of hard work and commitment, she assisted in the complete re-write of our Detroit, Michigan permit. She was asked to return to Operations as the Shipping & Receiving Manager and was promoted in 2019 to Manager of Facility Plant Operations.
Family is important. Melanie enjoys spending time with her nieces and nephews and focuses on being a positive influence to each of them. Melanie also enjoys reading true crime books, home decorating and cooking vegetarian meals – she’s always willing to try out a new recipe. She also loves the thrill of a great rollercoaster.
Melanie describes the waste industry as a “quiet industry”. “Before I started working here, I had no clue what this business was. When you say hazardous waste, it conjures up all kinds of crazy things and I don’t think the industry is as publicized in a positive way as it could be. We deal with chemicals, odors and many types of harmful waste, but there’s a lot of pride in the fact that we’re making sure this stuff isn’t put down the drain and back into our environment. We are helping each day to make the world a cleaner, safer place.”
Melanie sees firsthand that women are contributing to the waste and environmental industries both in management and operations roles that directly influence the success of Clean Earth. Melanie’s current role oversees one of the largest facilities at Clean Earth where she manages shipping and receiving, laboratory operations, and plant operations. She also works in conjunction with the transportation group for the Service Centers managed by our Detroit facility. The Clean Earth Detroit facility alone brings in over 350,000 containers per year, that’s nearly 1,000 containers each day resulting in a vast overall impact on the success of our Hazardous Waste Division at Clean Earth.
Sometimes, hindsight can be a very insightful form of wisdom. Though we can’t go back in time, we can reflect on the hard-earned knowledge we wish we had known in our younger years. As a young professional entering the industry, when Melanie started, she took criticism personally and was quick to react when things didn’t pan out the way she expected. If she had the opportunity to talk to her younger self she would say “It’s better to think through a situation before responding because when you show responsibility and concern for others and your business, people take you more seriously.”
The Women at Work program recognizes that women are strong agents of change and key contributors to the success of Clean Earth, but how do we encourage more young females into the industry? Melanie took notice that in her field, women are often in situations where they are stagnated, or they don’t have someone they feel they can confide in. She most recently recognized a team member who desired a new challenge at Clean Earth and needed that extra push of empowerment. Melanie mentored and encouraged her teammate to seek opportunity and be confident in her abilities. They currently have daily one-on-one meetings focused on professional growth, leadership, and being a woman in the industry. After 20 years, Melanie continues to use her enthusiasm and knowledge to help lead other women at Clean Earth, and we are honored to have her.
“If we’re good at what we do, then as things progress we will have more seats at the table. More women need to encourage this to continue.”
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