October 12th, 2016
Times Change, but More Change is Needed
It’s not an old boys’ club anymore, but negative attitudes toward women still linger in some corners of the moulding and millwork industry. Women have made great strides in the field, and many are now leaders in it, but there’s more that can be done.
That was the general consensus from a forum on women in the industry held during the World Millwork Alliance’s convention and trade show, which just wrapped up in Phoenix this week.
I dropped by the forum to see what the women were discussing, and it was eye-opening, to say the least.
Guys, sometimes we can be terrible.
“I think you have to have a really tough skin in this industry to last,” said WMA CEO Rosalie Leone, who guided the discussion. “It’s still out there.”
The “it” is discrimination. Not grotesque, flagrant sexual harassment (thought that still exists), but condescending attitudes and slights that demean women in the industry.
For example, one forum attendee said she’s been asked “what brings you to the WMA show? Did you just want to get out of the house?”
Several others described being mistaken for secretaries.
One talked about a double standard for women in family-owned companies, which are common in the millwork industry.
“The second that anyone knows that I work for my family, my credibility plummets,” she said. “‘Oh, she just works for her dad,’ they’ll say. But the opposite happens to my brother.”
Another woman, an executive, discussed being treated as invisible.
“I was walking around with the president of the company at the trade show,” she said. “We stopped at a vendor booth, and the vendor directly focused on the president of the company and ignored me. He literally turned his back on me.”
Though things aren’t perfect, they’re far better than they were 20-30 years ago. One forum participant described a particularly shocking job-application process during that time.
“I’ll never forget applying for this one job,” she said. “The hiring manager told me to go home and ask my husband if I should have applied. I said ‘if he was applying, would you tell him to go home and ask me?’”
While negative encounters like that were common in the past, panelists agreed that they’re much less likely now — and that trend is likely to continue as younger workers enter the industry.
“With the millennial generation, a lot of this is going to fall by the wayside,” said Leone.
Let’s hope so. The next generation of women deserves better.