While I’m not the first woman to be president of the American Supply Association, I am the first woman with the honor of attending the ASA Women in Industry ELEVATE conference as the ASA president —being the first woman to hold the role since the founding of the group in 2014.
I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t one of the days I’ve long had circled on the president’s travel schedule.
I’d like to congratulate my friend Karla Neupert Hockley (Consolidated Supply), who was awarded the Alice A. Martin Woman of the Year Award at the opening dinner of the event.
Past winners include Ashley Martin (NIBCO), Robyn Brookhart (Liberty Pumps), Suzanne Chreene (Delta) and me. When I say life takes a village, Karla has been part of my village. I’ve always appreciated her insight in any conversation or discussion group, I’ve called her many times for questions big and small, and followed the example she’s set for all of us as a leader of her business, as a mom and as an outstanding citizen of our industry. Congratulations, Karla!
As I prepared to update the record-setting 320-plus women attending the meeting on ASA’s current initiatives, I thought about how those initiatives are supporting the founding mission of the division to attract, promote and retain women across our industry. And, how those initiatives are supporting this mission as they drive the overall industry forward. I’m going to give a little caveat here because ASA and our industry surely strives to create an industry where all humans thrive, but I’m going to focus on women for purposes of this article.
Hopefully you know that the vision of ASA is to be indispensable to achieving prosperity in our industry. What you may not know is that vision was set 15 years ago by a group of volunteers who set out to take ASA into the future. Karla was probably even part of that group. Earlier this year, the current executive team reviewed both our vision and mission statements. We decided not to touch that vision. It is as relevant today as it was then, and we believe will continue to be in the future.
But we did recast our mission statement — to be the unified voice that drives the success of the PHCP and PVF supply chain industry. Each of the words in that mission mean something to us and we debated them. Being unified, successful, and encompassing the entire supply chain are key.
As a quick recap - ASA has four key initiatives that support achieving our long-term vision.
- Workforce development – PROJECT TALENT is the primary vehicle to tackle the future of workforce development in the industry. I would argue that this division goes a long way to make headway in this area.
- Advocacy – As one of the founding pillars of ASA, having a unified voice to represent our membership across the supply chain in all areas of policy whether it be government or codes and standards is critical to our future. This is one of my favorite areas of involvement in ASA and I highly encourage you to learn more about how your company is involved or find out how you might lead that involvement. ASA Vice President of Advocacy Steve Rossi leads this area, and you can find his contact information on the newly relaunched ASA website.
- Embracing the future – This involves supporting member businesses through succession planning, best practices in strategic planning, and our membership’s ability to look forward and engage effectively. My company used ASA’s Vitality Growth Assessment Tool, which guided our current strategic planning.
Operational excellence - ASA’s business intelligence tools are best in class. That newly relaunched website houses these reports and I again encourage you to visit the site if you haven’t yet.
AN INCREASED PRESENCE
And I have news for you — all these initiatives and all of ASA’s work to move our industry forward into the future — it’s working for women in our industry. It’s a fact.
In 2014, the year the division was founded, women made up less than 10% of people who attended NETWORK, our national conference held every fall. 9.7% to be exact. Fast forward to NETWORK2022. For only the second time in our more than 50-year history, the incoming president’s speech was given by a woman (me) and our attendance for women had grown to 15.75%.
At the senior levels, we’re doing even better. In 2014, only three women attended the winter strategic planning retreat, making up 5% of overall attendees. A few months ago, 25 women attended, making up more than 25% of overall attendance. We improved our representation five-fold. Our industry is proving to be a place where women can thrive.
If you were at NETWORK2022 in Chicago, you remember my challenge then — get involved and bring someone with you. We can use our representation at important meetings and amplify our voice as women in the industry from 15.75% to 31%, and even better, 50%. Women can truly be represented in our industry.
You may recall that I have a particularly hilarious three-year-old daughter, Frances, and I have one last challenge to you. We were at the park recently and Frances climbed to the top of a balance beam and looked at me with a perplexed face, but with a twinkle in her eye, and said: “Mom! Why do I always make the scariest decisions?”
That twinkle in her eye told me exactly why she makes the “scariest decisions.” Because she knows I’m there to cheer her on, reminding her she’s brave and strong, to catch her if she falls or pick her up with a hug and encouragement to try it again.
So my challenge — let’s put that twinkle in each other’s eyes. A few years ago, Bonnie Mason from Viega got on this stage and introduced one of our speakers. She implored us to hold the ladder for each other. That message struck a chord with me.
If you take one thing from this article, I hope that it’s to really know that our industry is a place where all people thrive, where people can build a career, where we truly celebrate each other’s accomplishments.
When you look around at being part of what you’ve heard me call this moment for our industry, I hope you hold that ladder for someone.