By Megan Salzano It’s no secret that the flooring industry has been a predominantly male world for decades. In fact, it has lacked in the area of diversity in many respects, be it gender, ethnic or societal. But times are changing. In 2021, “inclusion” means more than just touting a woman- or minority-owned business. It means looking at how real diversity can help move the industry forward and become representative of our end user, creating a booming powerhouse where more than the “few” succeed.
FCNews sat down with several women- and minority-owned business owners in our industry to ask what inclusion means to them and how others in the industry can be successful through representation and hard work.
Deb DeGraaf, DeGraaf Interiors, Michigan
I believe more women are getting involved in leadership and ownership roles because they see it can be done. More and more women are taking the initiative to make a difference in their businesses, which overall is impacting their communities. By nature, women are nurturing and supportive, and that is important for future generations of women in our industry.
One thing that I think every woman in leadership needs to know is to be confident in their abilities and realize and acknowledge that we need to surround ourselves with people who can complement our abilities but also fill where we fall short. I have had the opportunity to serve on many boards and committees, and as the current chair of WFCA, I feel great support from my colleagues.
Doris Garza, Alexander Carpet One Floor & Home, Corpus Christi, Texas
Remarks that question my ability to succeed because I am a woman, and a Hispanic one at that, still occur. Their assumptions that I cannot understand the technical aspects of flooring has driven me to prove them wrong time and time again. Although I would like to believe that times are changing for the better, I still experience prejudice.
While the world has a long way to go, I believe platforms that help bring women together and raise each other up are a great step into a future that sees us all as good businesspeople instead of businessmen or businesswomen. Until that happens, we need to believe that together, with our knowledge, perseverance and determination, we can be successful and, in turn, unstoppable.
Susan Hadinger, Hadinger Flooring, Naples, Fla.
As a woman in this industry, I really enjoy supporting and collaborating with the other women retailers and vendors. We may be a small group for now, but our numbers are growing, and I expect and encourage that to continue. I think the industry would be better served by a well-rounded group that can encompass more than one perspective.
At Hadinger Flooring, leadership positions are filled by women and men alike. The criteria really is that they be good leaders regardless of gender. And, well, they have to be OK with having a female boss. Chris Cosentino, our company president, is just that. I am a little biased, but I appreciate his willingness to approach the job and me as a person in the role, not a gender. I think this evolved approach can inform all of us.
Kristin Smith, Smith Flooring, Chester, Pa.
My husband has been in the construction industry for more than 35 years and I have been in the industry for 15 years; we have watched it transform in many positive ways. Construction sites today look a lot different from those a few decades ago.
I encourage more non-minority and non-women firms to support associations like the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) and the National Association of Minority Contractors (NAMC) to help bridge the diversity divide. Ever the optimist, I see hope on the horizon. I am hopeful for a stronger, more diverse industry of tomorrow.
Lauren Voit, Great Western Flooring, Naperville, Ill.
It’s not about a woman living in a man’s world/industry or a man living in a woman’s. It’s about all of us elevating this profession, this industry and everyone you work with by knowing your values and striving for excellence.
While there is a lot of conversation about gender equality of late, the one thing we must remember is the word ‘equality.’ We all have a role to play, and we are stronger when we highlight each individual’s unique abilities. The more diversity—in all ways—we can welcome into our industry, the better!
Penny Carnino, Grigsby’s Carpet, Tile & Hardwood, Tulsa, Okla.
Our industry has been very male dominated, but I don’t think of myself as a woman in a male-dominated industry any longer. I do think women have brought a lot of style and design into the industry (a different perspective), and it has been a welcomed contribution. Since the majority of our customer base, residentially, is women, it works very well.
My personal opinion is that you work hard and do your job and you gain respect in our industry whether you are male or female. My advice to my fellow women in management positions is to know your business, be knowledgeable about the products you sell and be fair.