Although the role of women, who make up 51% of the U.S. population, has recently gained significant status in America’s executive ranks, that positioning has been sadly lacking in the $150 billion overall plumbing-heating-cooling-piping industry.
And even though that formidable industry’s broad-based independent distribution system, overwhelmingly family-owned, has seen outstanding successful women at the helm of such substantial marketing concerns, the ranks of female chief executives have proven to be few and far between. This is not due to deliberate exclusionary tactics, but a cultural tradition that women “bosses” of heavy duty industry companies, such as construction, energy development, metalworking, and transportation equipment manufacturing will generally be considered unsuitable for women. Women chief executives are already prominent in retail-oriented businesses, such as publishing and communication, clothing, cosmetics, etc. Even as the ranks of deliberate exclusion are vanishing, executive positions, particularly in heavy industry manufacturing, have not yet been particularly attractive to a great majority of capable women executives, although such barriers are rapidly crumbling.
In this particular industry of all types of construction, manufacturing and energy development, in which I have spent my working lifetime, even this inhibition of female involvement is in the process of change.
In recognition of this breakthrough in the making, the American Supply Association, which is the industry’s “Big Tent,” bringing together manufacturers, distributors, importers and exporters, sales representatives, etc., has launched a “woman’s organization,” focusing on the greatly increasing number of women who have already distinguished themselves, and are actively involved in overall policy-making and participation in the various activities that make the Association tick.
A Board of Directors for this evolving group is in the making, with the group’s participation becoming an official component of the Association’s annual meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada in September of next year. Of exceptional note already are two significant women manufacturer presidents, Sheryl Michalak, WOI, Inc. and Ginger Restovic, Cooper Valves, Inc. It’s a foregone conclusion that this long-awaited commitment will not only celebrate the industry’s already successful women executives; but will encourage those presently involved, but not recognized, and the potentially future outstanding female industry leaders, along with the already large number of women-led distributors, will add an inspiring chapter to a dynamic industry sector that is key to the future of America’s economy.
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