Editor’s Note: March 8 is celebrated as International Women’s Day (IWD). The worldwide day recognizes women’s achievements, raises awareness for women’s equality, and promotes making a positive difference in the world.
According to March8, in 2022, only 6.5% of women in the United States worked full-time in male-dominated industries – about 9.18 million out of the 167 million women in the U.S.
The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) paints a similar picture; in 2022, women made up 9.9% of the construction industry. All told, a little more than 1 million women are in the construction industry and even fewer work in distribution sales.
It may sound discouraging at first, but this is great news.
Although women may not currently consider a career in energy transmission or infrastructure, there are opportunities, advancements, and money to be made in construction. Truth be told, these careers offer women much more than a “job.” This is exciting work and well worth doing.
I joined Graybar Electric as a 29-year-old entry-level employee in 2006. I didn’t attend college but was looking for a career I could pour myself into.
Graybar is one of the best training grounds, regardless of your education, age, or gender. The company laid the foundation for who I am as an electrical industry sales professional and, to this day, continues to foster an environment for women to succeed.
When I joined Kris-Tech in October 2015, there were only a handful of women working for the company. I was the first woman to work in sales and was honored to be in a hybrid position as a warehouse supervisor and inside salesperson.
Today, 22% of our workforce is female, including sales, operations, leadership, engineering, and finance. I thank President and CEO Graham Brodock for valuing people for their skills, not their gender. Graham’s leadership has helped us achieve a thriving culture featuring diverse backgrounds, ages, and genders.
One of our top salespeople is Lisa Napolitano, a young woman recently named to TED Magazine’s “30 under 35” list for 2022. Not only was she honored for her excellence in our industry, but she also became the first woman (and person) from Kris-Tech to receive the recognition.
Kris-Tech has been encouraging women to achieve new heights for years. In 2021, Nicole Palkovic became our first female Inside Sales & Customer Service Team Leader. We are growing together as a team of men and women, working together to lead the way.
Regardless of your education level, if you join a top electrical distributor like Graybar, Border States, CED, and many others, these companies position women for success.
The great thing about the electrical industry is that no matter when you enter the field, you’re constantly receiving on-the-job training. All you need is a good work ethic and a willingness to learn from others. Most of the time, electrical distributors offer vendor training for nothing more than your time.
Many vendors pay their distributor partners to train sales staff. When I was with Graybar, I was selected to go to a convention in Anaheim for communications, where vendors offered informational sessions and classes. We also had at least one weekly information session provided by our supply chain partners to learn about the products we were selling and HOW to sell them.
When I worked for Omni Cable, I was fortunate enough to go to Indiana to see the Belden factory and learn in great detail about the wire products that are still the industry standards of wire and cable.
One of my great friends, former colleague, and mentor, Tammy Robles, started with American Insulated Wire more than 30 years ago in an entry-level role while raising three children as a single parent.
She eventually forged business relationships that helped her create a living and call her own shots in her career. Today, Tammy is helping her children pursue higher education while thriving at Priority Wire.
Another treasured friend and Kris-Tech alum, Carolina Rioja, started her career at Grainger USA. She was also a single mom who excelled in the industry.
Grainger invests the time to intensively train all their salespeople, 40% of whom are women. Carolina eventually joined Omni Cable and got her degree while working full-time. Fast forward a few more years, and Carolina is now a Switchgear Sales Engineer for Schneider Electric.
In 2010, Graybar founded a networking group called Women Influencing Graybar’s Success (WINGS). WINGS was created to allow female employees to connect through networking, professional development, and mentoring. One of the program’s founding members is Kathy Mazzarella, who has served as Graybar’s CEO since June 2012.
Every day, I’m grateful I can come to work and do my job without feeling like my gender is holding me back.
Our industry welcomes women with open arms and values our minds. Still, it’s hard to believe only 50 years ago, it would be unheard of for a woman to be interested in this line of work.
I can hear the faint sound of shattered glass ceilings every time I talk to a male distributor partner and get to educate them about wire. It gives me a sense of pride when I’m asked for my advice about which direct burial product is best for an installation or the difference between jacket thicknesses.
I’m grateful to all the women who paved the way for us to have more opportunities than ever in traditional male-centric industries.
Thanks to them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.