As part of Women’s History Month, USGNN™ is highlighting some of the great women in the industry and their thoughts on why women are a valuable asset to the glass and glazing industry, as well as how to bring more women into the industry.

Deborah Callahan—NFRC

Deborah Callahan

Deborah Callahan has been in the glass industry for 14 years with the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) and she’s been CEO of the organization for the past four years. Although she didn’t seek out a career in the industry, she says she finds it to be interesting, important and a multilayered industry that touches each person in many ways every single day.

Callahan believes that there is an opportunity for growth in every challenge faced.

“I’ve been very fortunate in my career, and believe that every position, every challenge and every opportunity for growth has informed the next step and gotten me to where I’m supposed to be,” she says. “When I speak to young women about my personal experience, I tell them that my biggest challenge (and success) was creating a strong, authentic, and unapologetic voice that would be listened to. Once you achieve this, the sky is the limit!”

Of the many developments Callahan has witnessed in her time with the NFRC, she’s been most excited by the movement toward energy efficiency.

“That it encompasses so many materials—glass being but one—is important and a harbinger of great things to come as planet Earth reconciles our misuses of the past and plans for a greener future,” she says.

As far as future changes for the industry, Callahan says she would like to see an uptick in manufacturing within the U.S. and the use of more insulating glass and other innovations to help reduce energy consumption. Callahan also believes more women should consider a career in the glass industry.

“Right of the cuff [they should join] because salaries are higher in male-dominated industries.  With women outpacing man in the workforce, it’s time for women to stand up and be part of an exciting and emerging field,” she says. “Women are known as the most untapped talent pool in many industries and, as such, we’ve got to continue to make inroads, particularly in a field that will be largely impacted by new technologies, and the sustainability and recycling movements.”

She suggests that employers seek women out specifically.

“Convey that through this work, women could have a hand in changing the future. Pay close attention to pay disparities and be a leader in leveling the field,” she says. “Be intentional in creating mentoring programs for women, and then promote them into leadership positions at the same rate that you promote men.”

Jamilla Walcott—YKK AP America

Jamilla Walcott

Jamilla Walcott is the director of marketing at YKK AP America. She has three years of industry experience.

“While I have always been in manufacturing, my role is really about communicating and telling stories. The glazing industry is no different in that you’ve got an entire community of suppliers, influencers, specifiers, contractors and customers that all need information and inspiration,” she explains.

Walcott transitioned into the marketing side of the glass industry after being a logistics officer in the military. She says it’s been her biggest challenge because it’s not a common path and required persistence. Since joining the glass industry, she’s been excited to see the growing role of marketing for suppliers and the influence of social media and case studies.

“Branding has become such an important differentiator as competition levels out,” she says. “On the trend side, it would be the modern explosion with more daylighting…more glass, I love the look.”

Walcott describes the industry as relationship driven with more opportunities than women may think. She believes the industry needs to make younger people aware of it to get more women involved.

“The fact that there was a glass industry never crossed my radar. You tend to think more about consumer-oriented industries like electronics, medical or food and don’t realize how much goes in to the buildings that all around us,” she says. “Many people like myself choose a profession before they choose an industry– so maybe highlighting the variety of opportunities that are available in the glass industry could be a good start.”

Stay tuned to USGNN™ throughout the week for more spotlights on women in the history in celebration of Women’s History Month.