Paula Wood

2020 STEP Ahead Honoree

Director of Global Safety Implementation
International Paper

Manufacturing continually challenges me. No two days are the same. It’s an environment where you can continue to learn, grow and contribute no matter where you are in your career.  Manufacturing offers great careers that provide opportunities to collaborate with people at work and in the surrounding communities.  At the end of the day, there’s a feeling of accomplishment.  That feeling is what I strive to share with others.

Paula began her career with International Paper (IP) as a process engineer in 1997 at the former IP Augusta, Georgia mill.  Her career path has provided her the opportunity to hold several manufacturing roles at four different IP facilities. Her most recent role was mill manager at IP’s Global Cellulose Fibers mill in Franklin, Virginia. Paula is known for her commitment to doing the right thing, in the right way and for the right reason. Under her leadership, the Franklin, Virginia mill saw a 45 percent improvement in safety near-miss reporting and achieved a record of exceeding mill performance for 12 consecutive months. Paula is an advocate for continuous and deliberate improvement, which she believes improves engagement and inspires young engineers to choose manufacturing as a career. In the fall of 2019, Paula transitioned into her current role, director of global safety Implementation, where she leads a team who support safety program implementation at manufacturing and converting facilities.

As an active member of IP’s Global Manufacturing Diversity and Inclusion team and the Women in IP Mentoring Board, Paula mentors other women by helping them successfully navigate their careers in manufacturing.  Aside from mentoring, Paula is improving the IP culture through her work on the retention and work-life balance teams. Recently, she worked on the team who rolled out IP’s improved new parent benefits. IP hires more than 100 engineers each year, and Paula’s perspective as a career manufacturer and a working mother is highly valued and helps IP attract more young women to work for the company.

Paula not only makes an impact for the future of IP through safety leadership and mentorship, but she is well known for her passion about giving back to the communities she works in. As operations manager at IP’s Bogalusa, Louisiana mill, she volunteered with the United Way, the Louisiana Northshore Food Bank and helped local schools learn about papermaking and preparing for transition into the workforce.   In Franklin, Virginia Paula quickly connected with and encouraged the local schools to apply for grants. When it was brought to the mill’s attention that the local food pantry was critically low on food and supplies, with Paula’s support, the mill stepped in and collected the largest donation the food pantry had ever received.