Volume 48, Issue 2- February 2013

GANAPerspectives


Success in Numbers
Tremendous Opportunities for Women

To be a woman in the glass and glazing industry is interesting. Yes, that is a good word. When I first got here 15 years ago, I never gave being a woman much thought in relation to GANA or glass and glazing. Like the geology degree I worked to get, that industry didn’t have many female peers either. One grows accustomed to a predominantly male group; yes, it kind of is a concept we think about only in the back of our minds.

Times have changed over the years. When my mother started in the industry—please don’t kill me for saying it was more than 30 years ago—she was one of a handful of women. When I entered the industry, much had changed. There were only a few women in leadership positions from which to learn. Today, we have a group of about 130 women who represent their member companies in GANA in some capacity or another. In that, there are around 30 women who are active in leadership and committees.

Like-Minded People
Why does this matter? Studies have shown that a group of similar people, such as women, will excel when within a group of like-minded people—not that all women think the same or that we are so different men won’t understand us, which is debatable. The roles of men vs. women may overlap, but each has a different perspective in what it means to be a man or a woman. To be a professional woman in a professional organization has huge benefits. To be in that organization and within a subset of other professional women is tremendous. This is what GANA does well and has the capacity to grow even further.

A 1979 Bureau of Labor and Statistics report showed that women earned 62 percent as men in equal jobs. Contrasted with 2008, women earned 80 percent of the same salary in the same job as their male counterparts. Interesting that the biggest gap is in the legal field, where women earned just more than 50 percent as much as a man in the same field. Progress has been made for sure.

Continual Improvement
There is little doubt that many factors also contribute to this. What I find most alarming is the lack of women in technical jobs, or the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. The successful graduation rate of women and other minorities in STEM fields is around 30 percent—far lower than their male counterparts and even lower than universities as a whole.

One of the best ways to improve the graduation rates of women and minorities in the STEM fields is by the use of student and professional associations, as well as strong support from women in the field. When I say we have come a long way, the fact that we have 130 women in our organization and another 30 active in shaping our industry, we do more to close the gender gap than all else.

Overall, my experience in GANA has been positive, from a woman’s perspective. That can’t be said for many associations and industries today. GANA offers tremendous opportunity for leadership growth in serving as chairs and board positions. We have had just one woman GANA president thus far, and I will be lucky enough to follow in her footsteps in a few years. I anticipate more to follow. Our technical director is a woman, most GANA staff members are women, and a large percentage of our current board members are women. To say we have come a long way is an understatement.

GANA is a leader in so many areas, from advocacy to standards. The salary gap, I hope, will narrow even if it has stalled since 2005. The issues of gender are part of a greater societal concern, even if it touches us in our industry. However, what I do know is that we are doing something right in having the strong women leaders we do have.

 

Kris Vockler is CEO of ICD High Performance Coatings in Vancouver, Wash., and serves on the GANA board of directors as secretary.


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