Profile of Leadership at Henkel: La Jefa in Puerto Rico

Rosa Dávila, Director of Plant Operations at Henkel’s Sabana Grande manufacturing plant, has been breaking down barriers throughout her career. She is sharing her experiences to help pave the way for the next generation of leaders in STEM.

DEI Mar 24, 2022

Sabana Grande, Puerto Rico is home to one of Henkel's largest Adhesive Technologies manufacturing plants, which is managed by Rosa Dávila, the first woman to hold this role at the site. Rosa started at the plant in 1990 as the first female chemical operator and has been breaking down barriers ever since. Over the years, she’s taken on increasing responsibility in her roles, becoming the first female chemist, making her the first female in an engineer role as well as the first female in a technical role. In January 2012, Rosa was named Director of Plant Operations, a position she continues to hold today.

Woman holding clipboard smiling at camera

“From the start, I was the only woman at Sabana Grande working in what was considered a man’s role,” explained Rosa. “There were other women in administrative roles, but there were a lot of challenges being the first female in an engineering role, especially from a cultural change standpoint.”

Rosa points to Henkel’s culture as helping her to feel empowered to achieve her career dreams and overcome stereotypes. Henkel has long been committed to creating a collaborative, inclusive environment where all employees feel supported and that doors are open to them at the company, even if against societal norms.

“Not only did I have coaching from Henkel, but examples from bosses and colleagues who always encouraged me,” said Rosa. “Leaders in the Adhesives world empowered me to pursue my dreams and level up in technical positions bit by bit. I am so grateful to have received this type of support and know that people were rooting for me to succeed.”  

The support she received as a woman pursuing a career in STEM reinforced her commitment to encouraging other women to grow in their roles. A key focus for Rosa is changing the unconscious mindset that being a female means you’re not able to do a certain job. Changing mindsets takes education and dialogue. Those who resisted initially have been able to learn and grow to overcome their bias, something Rosa can relate to in her personal life.

“I have three daughters and one son. One of my daughters is a gay woman and when she came out to me it was shocking at first. My daughter helped me grow and overcome my bias, creating an amazing teaching moment for tolerance and understanding.”

Rosa is working to help others overcome their bias through example, while also supporting future Jefas, which means female leaders in Spanish, to empower themselves to be anything they want to be. She is seeing progress in female representation in STEM and inspiring more.

The Sabana Grande team supports a local STEM group that encourages young women to pursue careers in science and engineering. Female engineers at the plant, many of whom are recent graduates, act as mentors to show what it’s like to work in STEM roles. Representation matters and it’s so important that young women see themselves reflected in STEM fields, especially in leadership positions.

Rosa shared her advice for the next generation of women, “A closed door can be opened if you push hard enough. And there are people who will help you! Don’t think that because you are a woman, or a Latina or the first in your family to attend college that your dreams are out of reach. Everyone deserves an equal chance to succeed.”

Building on a system of equity takes support from many. Colleagues across Henkel strive to lead by example because they know they are paving the way for the next generation of leaders at Henkel and the industry at-large.

Learn more about diversity equity and inclusion at Henkel.