An Interview with Shira Sal Webshat
As part of International Women’s Day, we’ve been focusing on ICL’s scientists and engineers, and some of our top site managers. Shira Sal Webshat is leading by example as manager of an ICL periclase site in Southern Israel. She is earning the respect of colleagues and workers and bringing new innovations to the desert facility.
We asked Shira about what originally motivated her to join ICL and how she progressed to become a site manager in a tough male-dominated environment. Shira explained why she chose to work at ICL and shared some valuable tips for women who want to make it as site managers.
Hi Shira, thanks for talking to us! As a woman manager in the periclase site industry, how do you see your role in advancing gender equality in the field?
In the past (and not so far ago) all of the site managers were men. The fact that there are women leading sites is a blessed change. But, promoting women should be based on proven skills and capabilities and not on gender. If a site manager isn’t respected for their actual abilities, they will struggle to command respect and run an efficient site. It’s a tough and demanding job that depends on trust and cooperation from a lot of people. Trust and cooperation have to be earned – it can’t simply be demanded. The fact that I’m fulfilling this position shows it’s possible and opens the door for other women – and silences all the skeptics.
Can you tell us about a woman who has inspired you in your work, and how they have influenced your approach to managing a site?
I’ll devote this answer to a remarkable woman who is no longer with us. Anat Tal was someone whose memory I cherish forever. She epitomized all the best qualities; sharp, focused, professional, and a natural strategist. In addition to all that, she was caring and generous – a mother to all of her subordinates.
Anat was living proof that there is nothing that a woman can’t do, and she did it in the best manner. She was the living proof that both a career and a family are possible. Anat was very task-oriented and competitive, as well as intuitively recognizing individual needs and caring for people. She continues to accompany me in my decision-making, even though she is no longer with us. I am grateful for the privilege of having known her. She was a true mentor and a friend.
How have you seen the role of women in the periclase site industry change over the years, and what progress still needs to be made?
I’m the first woman to run this site. I believe that more will follow. The industry is more welcoming today than ever and ICL offers its female employees a lot of help and encouragement to reach their true potential.
What initially inspired you to take on such an unconventional role?
I grew up in the South of Israel and always wanted to work for ICL. They are a major presence in the region and a highly respected company. I began as a process engineer in the production department and knew that I could continue to develop professionally. It’s all been a natural progression.
Managing people is a privilege that allows me to grow personally. Site management gives me the best of both worlds as I can embrace technical and logistical challenges and work with people. Actually, I don’t view my role as unconventional, I’m simply doing what I love to do.
Do you have any interesting stories to share about breaking gender roles or the glass ceiling?
I don’t see myself as breaking any glass ceiling. There is a glass ceiling in society, but more than society there are barriers that we set for ourselves.
I believe that we are the ones who gave effect to the glass ceiling (for all sorts of reasons) and only we can break it and when that happens it will definitely lead to the long-awaited change in society/the world. It’s all about an “I can do it” mindset.
In your opinion, what steps can companies take to support women in the periclase site industry and create a more dynamic and supportive work environment overall?
Promotion must be on merit. What’s important is educating girls and young women about the opportunities that are out there, and giving them the self-confidence to pursue those opportunities (if that’s what they want). There are more women employees every year who will be candidates for advancement.
What’s important is doing what is right and choosing the right person for each position. Simply choosing a woman on the basis of her gender isn’t a purpose, choosing the right person is. At the end of the day, a site manager is responsible for the physical safety of all the employees – sometimes in potentially dangerous conditions. You have to promote the best candidate. The point is that women should have the opportunity to prove themselves. ICL is creating those opportunities down here at the Rotem plant.
Lastly, what message of inspiration and encouragement would you like to share with women in the periclase site industry as we celebrate International Women’s Day this year?
My message is the one I’m telling my daughter at every opportunity – we’re going through an amazing life journey, with lots of loving and caring people. But, through that journey the only constant that you can ultimately rely on is you, yourself… so always remember that and be proud of who you are!
ICL is leading the way when it comes to identifying talent and ability and giving women the opportunity to advance within the corporate structure. Every position, no matter how demanding or challenging, is open to female employees who want to build their own unique career path. One of the great things about ICL is that you can start in any position in the company and progress in whichever direction your interests and abilities take you.
Women like Shira Sal Webshat are blazing the trail for the next generation of female employees who want to contribute to ICL’s international operations and our vision for a sustainable future and a better and safer world. If you’re interested in working for ICL and think that you have a positive contribution to make, talk to us today!