Safe At The Top
Tuftsgraduate Ellen J. Kullman thrives as a female executive at oneof the nation’s largest—and increasingly important—manufacturers.Medford/Somerville,Mass.
Medford/Somerville, Mass. [11.05.04] Over the last decade,Ellen Kullman has watched as interest in workplace safety issueshas steadily increased. But the Tufts graduate – who headsDuPont’s multi-billion dollar Safety and Protection group,says the recent increase in global terrorism has fueled growinginternational interest in the field.
"That'swhen we saw the U.S. government and other governments of the worldreally thinking about buildings and protection in a very differentway," Kullman – who has worked at DuPont for nearlytwo decades – told the Delaware News Journal.
Even beforethe events of September 11, 2001, safety emerged as a priorityin the wake of the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and theattacks on two U.S. embassies in 1998, and Kullman oversaw DuPont’sadaptation to that shift.
"Youhave to think about it more holistically," she told the NewsJournal.
Kullman, whograduated from Tufts in 1978 with a degree in mechanicalengineering, launched DuPont's work-force safety consultingbusiness in 1998, overseeing more than 25 percent growth in eachyear of its existence. These established relationships with customers,Kullman told the News Journal, help her company respondflexibly to a changing marketplace.
In 2002, DuPontcollected all of its safety-oriented enterprises within one groupand put Kullman at the helm of the new division, now valued atover $4 billion. Management of familiar DuPont brands like Kevlar,Tyvek and Corian falls within the Tufts graduate’s purview.
Kullman hasalso sought to expand DuPont’s business abroad. A recenttrip to Asia showed her that developing nations are seeking toelevate their safety standards to those of the world’s wealthycountries.
“It'sa totally different feel,” she explained to the NewsJournal. “They're reaching out, asking what we cando."
Aside frombeing the first female executive at DuPont, she also recentlyassumed memberships to the boards of both General Motors and theNational Safety Council and sits on the Board of Overseers forthe Tufts School of Engineering.
After graduatingfrom Tufts, Kullman went on to get her MBA from Northwestern.After several years at General Electric, the 48-year-old cameto work at DuPont – based in her native Wilmington, Delaware– in 1988.
Kullman balancesheading up the company’s most profitable division with raisingher family, which includes her husband and fellow DuPont employeeMichael, 10-year-old twin sons and a 14-year-old daughter
"I lovewhat I do, and I'm a much better parent because I work than ifI didn't work,” she told the News Journal.
The presidentof the National Association of Female Executives, Betty Spence,called Kullman a “visionary,” the newspaper reported.“[Kullman]'s fortunate to be at a company like DuPont wherethey can see, appreciate and reward female talent,” Spencesaid.
Despite herrole as a working mom in a male-dominated corporate environment,the outgoing Kullman has never felt at a disadvantage.
"I neverviewed myself as different,” she told the News Journal.“I think that helps because you're not looking for it, you'resaying, 'Hey, let it go.' And if I'm comfortable, everybody elseis comfortable.”