Women are making important contributions to our industry
Supply House Times Editorial — March 2015
How many times have you heard someone say the PHCP-PVF industry is “male-dominated?”
Statistically that may be very accurate, but setting numbers aside it’s not just the men knocking it out of the park in boardrooms, on sales calls or in the warehouse. This great industry is filled with women who play key roles in the vitality of the companies they work for.
This is our annual Women in Industry-focused issue. Last year we spotlighted ASA’s newest division with the stories of co-founders Katie Poehling (First Supply) and Ashley Martin (NIBCO). In this issue, we’ve ramped things up even further.
In addition to a profile on woman business owner Teri Sharp of suburban Chicago-based industrial PVF distributor American Precision Supply, we get you acquainted with 10 other women making contributions to the industry. Those capsule profiles will become a yearly staple in the magazine and based on the positive response I received this year, you’ll likely see 20 of them in the 2016 version — so many great stories to tell.
With these capsules, I asked the women a series of questions concerning their current position, how they got into the industry and what their advice to a young woman looking to get into the business would be. The responses to the questions were insightful and demonstrated why this industry is filled with world-class people.
For instance, WinWholesaleDirector of Support and Training Vickie Johnson studied computer technology in college, but wanted something more.
“I knew I wanted a career that combined both computers and the ability to work directly with people,” she said. “When looking at industries, I was deeply impressed by the opportunities available in wholesaling. By joining WinWholesale, I was empowered to use my knowledge of computer technology to make a difference in the lives of thousands of entrepreneurs.”
Melanie Felladore, the human resources, benefits and safety manager at Waterbury, Conn.-based Torrco, started out of college at a local plumbing and heating distributor. After a few years there, she started a HR career in the banking sector. Her husband later joined Torrco (then Torrington Supply Co.) and once the company reached 100 employees, she returned to the industry. “It was one of the best decisions I ever made,” she said.
Elkay’s Christen Allen happened on the industry by chance. “I was attending a career fair while in college and saw a friend working a booth for a local plumbing wholesaler,” she said. “With no serious intentions, I approached him thinking I would get my feet wet and practice my interviewing skills. He was a good salesman and I was an eager young woman looking for an exciting career where I knew I could grow. That was 15 years ago and today I remain happy and fulfilled in the plumbing industry.”
A lot has been made recently about the need to attract talented young people into the industry. All-Tex Pipe & Supply President and CEO Jill Brock Hurd cited in her responses an eye-opening statistic where one in every two people in this industry will be eligible to retire within five years.
Organizations such as Women in Industry (which has a heck of a lineup planned for its April national meeting in Washington, D.C.) and ASA’s Young Executives, as well as the buying group and regional emerging leader groups, are doing great things to help this industry move forward for many years to come.
Now is a prime time for motivated, talented and hard-working young people to take a close look at what this industry has to offer. Our 10 executives had plenty of advice specifically for young women who may be considering a PHCP-PVF career. InSinkErator’s Rebecca Falish would like to see even more women give it a shot.
“This is a welcoming industry to women although not likely one sought by women,” she said. “I have two daughters and would tell both this is an industry that welcomes and encourages the growth and promotion of women. It’s not a challenge to prove yourself as a woman anymore. It’s the challenge of proving yourself as an individual.”
Karen Bruggenthies, the Denver branch manager for Kelly Pipe, sees no reason why a woman wouldn’t want to get involved with toilets, pipe and boilers.
“How can you not love a job where you are never bored, constantly challenged, given freedom and responsibility to answer those challenges and you get to deal with terrific people?” she asked.
The answer is you can’t.