Here you’ll find our third annual look at some of the many women making a difference in the PHCP-PVF industry whether that be in distribution, master distribution, or those working for a rep agency or manufacturer.
The response to this feature has been so great that we doubled the number of women profiled and probably could have tripled it. One thing is for certain, that familiar “male-dominated industry” refrain you usually hear likely needs to be downgraded a tad. More and more women are enjoying productive careers in this industry in many different job functions.
In learning more about our featured subjects for this profile I was amazed at the number of women who never intended to get into this industry or to stick around very long — but they still are here and loving every minute of it.
Take Viega Vice President of Sales and Marketing Dalyn Cantrell for example. Newly married and working for a small-town sporting goods/appliance store in McPherson, Kan., Cantrell heard from the company accountant that Vanguard Piping Systems, which Viega acquired in 2005, was looking for a customer service rep and thought she would be a great fit.
“I reluctantly stopped in and filled out an application thinking I really didn’t care if anything came of it,” she says. “I got a call the next day from the owner asking me to come in for an interview. He hired me the following day and 33 years later I’m still at it.”
Kelly Pipe’s Dixie Buck, who works in sales at the industrial PVF master distributor’s Houston office, initially did not see long-term written on her industry future. “The people I work with really got me hooked,” she says. “It’s an exciting, rewarding and fun job. I feel I have been trained by the best. I enjoy working for a company that has so many long-term, vested employees that share my personal and professional goals.”
NIBCO PEX Piping Systems General Manager Ashley Martin joined the industry because of potential. “There are so many great opportunities for women and men,” she says. “There isn’t one career path you have to follow to achieve what you want.”
A few quick words on Martin and industry colleague Katie Poehling of La Crosse, Wis.-based First Supply, who both spearheaded the launch of the American Supply Association’s Women in Industry Division in 2014. Poehling, First Supply’s COO of bath and kitchen stores, is the current chairwoman of the division and Martin will take over next year.
Their hard work has helped the nascent group explode from 47 company memberships and 88 women members in 2014 to current-day numbers of 83 member companies and 209 women members. That means in a span of about 14 months, the Women in Industry group has grown in company membership by nearly 77% and in individual membership by more than 137%. Wow!
The Women in Industry group is providing women an extremely valuable education and networking vehicle that I encourage you, if you have not done so already, to take full advantage of. I was at last year’s conference in Washington, D.C., and left beyond impressed. This year’s conference returns to Chicago April 27-29 at the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park. For more information, visit www.asa.net/women-in-industry.
I also asked for advice one would give a young woman looking at our industry as a possible career path. I was left with no shortage of responses. Allie Lehmann, VP of operations at Dallas-based HVAC distributor Standard Supply, pegs the number of women employed in industrial distribution at less than 25%, much lower than the total female workforce population of 47%.
“As a young woman, you can read that statement two ways,” she says, “but if you read it as opportunity, then you absolutely will excel. For starters, industrial distribution is a multi-billion-dollar domestic entity. As an industry, you can gain professional development within an entrepreneurial environment and the skill sets you develop are transferable anywhere in the world. I once had someone tell me if you can learn P&L management at the distributor branch level, you can run a company of a billion dollars — after all, it’s just another zero or two.”
Ferguson Vice President of Change Management & Organizational Alignment Denise Brown labels the opportunities in the industry as endless. “This is an industry that welcomes, respects and needs strong and capable women,” she says. “You can be successful as a tradesperson or in sales, management, finance or human resources. You are privileged to work with good, honest, hardworking people who want to improve the lives of others. Who could want more than that?”
This article was originally titled “Sky’s the limit” in the 2016 March print edition of Supply House Times.