Shaler Area names 2018 Distinguished Alumnus
Shaler Area recognized 1977 graduate Kathleen Buse as its 2018 Distinguished Alumnus during the high school’s Nov. 15 National Honor Society induction ceremony.
A committee of teachers and administrators selected Buse for the award based upon her achievements following high school graduation, which have involved contributions toward advancing women in the workforce.
Following her high school graduation, Buse, 60, pursued a 25-year industry career, with positions at Eastman Kodak, Lubrizol, Avery Dennison and Sherwin-Williams.
Buse said that Kodak hired a lot of women and “embraced inclusion and diversity.” However, she had a less positive experience when she left her film manufacturing director role behind.
“In a lot of meetings, I was told more than once that I didn’t fit in, and when I asked what that meant, it was very vague — I didn’t get a lot of feedback,” she said. “And when opportunities for a promotion came, a lot of what I was told was, ‘Oh, you have a family; you have kids, so, you know, we’re not going to consider promoting you.’ ” She said this led her to return to graduate school.
Buse earned a doctorate in management from Case Western Reserve University, a master’s in electrical engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology, and a bachelor’s in chemical engineering/engineering and public policy from Carnegie Mellon University.
As part of her doctoral dissertation, Buse read studies on women in organizations and the biases they face. She then interviewed women about their work in male-dominated technical fields and conducted quantitative surveys. Her subjects told her they lacked the confidence they needed to succeed in their careers.
“Some of it was their own imposter syndrome … where you just don’t think you are as good as people tell you that you are, but some of it was that they were told things that I was told, like ‘You don’t fit in. We are not going to promote you; you are not ready,’ and not getting specific feedback about what makes you not ready yet.”
Her research found that women who had mentors, challenging projects and optimism experienced more positive outcomes.
Buse was working as a Case Western adjunct professor when she decided she wanted to use her research findings in a concrete manner to assist women in technical careers. Therefore, she co-created the university’s Leadership Lab for Women, focused on equipping women with the skills necessary for advancement. Thereafter, she served as president and founder of Advancing Women in STEM and Advancing Women in the Workforce. In those roles, she provided research and strategies for companies seeking to create women-friendly environments.
She recently merged those ventures with ERC, a human resources firm. She said the move has given her a larger platform to develop programs for organizations so that they can “recruit, retain and advance women.”
“My mission now is to help all women across all industries no matter what they’re doing, understand the bias and barriers that they face, especially as they enter into leadership.”
“I nominated our classmate Kathy Buse to celebrate her accomplishments and her focus on giving back her time and experience to students,” said Shaler Area Alumni Association President Mark Becker, of Buse, who played basketball for Shaler Area. “She is a great example of what past and current Shaler Area students can achieve by being a good student, a good teammate and a hard worker.”
Buse and her husband have three children and reside in Lake County, Ohio.
Erica Cebzanov is a