With each passing year that the American Supply Association (ASA) Women in Industry Division holds it’s ELEVATE conference, it becomes more and more evident than the strength and representation of women in the PHCP-PVF supply chain is growing — much like the division itself.
The division’s 8th annual in person event — held April 10-12 in Charleston, South Carolina —boasted a record 320 plus attendees, 140 of which were first-timers. These women represent all levels of the supply chain; there were C-suite Executives, Warehouse Managers, Human Resources leaders, Saleswomen, Marketing professionals and so many more all gathered with the same goals: To celebrate, learn, connect and network.
ELEAVTE is known for being a welcoming event and a place where women — both new to the industry and seasoned — can find a seat at any table. To celebrate yet another year of record first-time attendees, Supply House Times chatted with newcomers to hear firsthand their greatest takeaways from the event.
New this year, the Women in Industry Division organized a panel discussion where leaders from various companies tackled relevant topics affecting women in the workplace. Panelists Alexis Davis, vice president, HR, Rinnai, Tracie Sponenberg, chief people officer, The Granite Group, Meagan Owen, chief strategy officer, Eastern Industrial Supplies, Christy Maloney, vice president, Coburn Supply Co., Shannon Mercil, vender relations manager, Hajoca, and Stephanie Vega Ziegler, director, environmental product strategy, Ferguson, gave advice on finding your voice, advocating for yourself and much more.
First time attendee Kelsey Meinders, human resources manager, Plumbing & Heating Wholesale, says she appreciated that the panel included women from all different backgrounds. “The biggest takeaway I had from the panelists was to always remember to advocate for myself. Speak up, speak out and know that what I have to say and bring to the table adds value,” she says. “It’s incredibly empowering.”
Michelle Edwards, branch manager for First Supply also points out that it was helpful to hear the differing perspectives of the panelists.
“I loved hearing the different approaches they’ve taken in different types of situations. Especially when the discussion surrounding crying at work came up,” she says. “My tear ducts are directly connected to every emotion I have and I’ve often experienced the verge of tears feeling at work and frankly have really scolded myself for having that type of response. It was refreshing to hear they’ve all shed a tear at least once and that it’s okay.”
Although everyone had unique perspectives to share, it was evident during the panel discussion that many women in the PHCP-PVF industry have shared the same struggles and faced the same challenges. “My top takeaway from the panel discussion was that as women in the industry we all face similar bias and judgement,” says Sheri Hummel, director of environmental health & safety at PACE Supply. “Each woman in the panel detailed specific events and encounters in the workplace that were unpleasant in nature and each woman was able to address it, learn from it, and become empowered from it. It was an inspiring reminder of how resilient we as women can be.”
Kaitlyn Isola, director of marketing for IMARK Plumbing Group summarizes the panel discussion well, saying, “There has never been a greater time to be a woman in our industry.”
“As we continue to make strides and assume positions of power, it is important that we support each other, network and pave the way for the generation of women and men entering the work force,” Isola added.
BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND
Body Language Expert and former federal law enforcement officer within the Department of Justice, Janine Driver was back at ELEVATE2023 by popular demand. Her program at the 2022 conference in Louisville was a crowd favorite. These new attendees had the chance to hear Driver speak for the first time, and she certainly left an impact.
Sarah Andrzejewski, software development manager for Winsupply says that Driver’s quote, “Don’t give your pain a voice,” stuck with her. “This reminded me to approach each day with a positive mental attitude. For my work and personal life, this is something I'll always remember.”
Training Coordinator at Eastern Industrial Supplies, Samantha Collier, says it was tough to single out one top takeaway from the ELEVATE speakers, but there were a few points from Driver that stuck with her.
“One of my biggest takeaways was from Janine Driver on the posture we approach life with. ‘Are we interested or interesting? Are we curious or judgmental?’” Collier quotes. “Janine taught us that people usually evaluate others in this order: ‘Can I trust you? And then, ‘Are you competent?’ But we typically lead with competence, then follow with trustworthiness. If we lead with likability and kindness, showcasing our trustworthiness, it helps develop relationships and people capital. Then people will see your competence on their own.”
I truly had no idea the overwhelming number of powerful women that are in the industry. I started my career in a predominately male world in 1987 when there might have been one or two other women I’d run into from time to time. I’m full of joy knowing the growth that’s happened and that so many women have been elevated to roles traditionally held by men. – Michelle Edwards, Branch Manager, First Supply
Meinders names one more of Driver’s points as a standout takeaway for her. “Her quote, ‘stop getting mad at giraffes for having long necks,’ was really eye-opening. How often do I, as a woman HR manager in a male dominant industry, get frustrated for things that just are? Pretty often. Her putting into perspective that we can’t change who people innately are, was was a great realization for me.”
Driver also shared a powerful conversational tool that first-time attendee Melissa Bauman, trade sales, for Best Plumbing Supply, says she will utilize in her career.
“Janine taught us how to use the phrase, ‘that’s interesting,’ to respond to inappropriate or unwelcomed questions without coming across combative,” Bauman explains. “As the only woman working in trade sales much of the time, this concept is something I will be using for any inappropriate comments I receive to keep a rapport with customers while keeping communication respectful.”
EYE-OPENING AND POWERFUL
Eye-opening, powerful, empowering, encouraging and remarkable are just some of the words these first-time attendees used to describe ELEVATE2023.
“It is remarkable to walk into a room of all women to learn and grow from one another. It is a unique opportunity and one that I am grateful to ASA for providing,” Collier says. “This room is full of women leading, growing and changing the industry by bringing the superpower of being a female and sharing our perspective in a male-dominated industry.”
Bauman agrees, saying the event left her feeling positive and confident. “My favorite aspect of ELEVATE was the sense of togetherness and support every woman attending the event showed to everyone they met. The positivity and confidence I left the event with will stay with me forever.”
Isola encourages other women to attend ELEAVATE. “It is most definitely worth the time and financial investment. The networking, speaking engagements and workshops will only make you a stronger part of your organization and give you tons of great information to take home.”
Edwards also says attending ELEVATE is far beyond worth the investment. “We’ve all been to conferences where the takeaway and value isn’t really there. ELEVATE was so different. It felt like the entire focus was to truly empower women not only by listening to great speakers but by encouraging us to network with one another,” she said. “I left the conference with a bigger network of collaborators, friends and mentors.”
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