benefit from paying for employees to attend. “That has not been the case at all,” she said. “After attending the WII Forum, women come back and are armed with resources to develop their leadership skills and bolster their con- fidence and with tools to help them make better decisions at their compa- nies. As WII has grown, we are seeing new faces and more first-time atten- dees, which will continue to benefit the group and the companies in our industry.” It’s impossible to say how much of the change in women’s role in the industry is due to WII specifically, but there can be little doubt it played a role. “I don’t know that electrical distri- bution is any different from the rest of the country in the explosion of oppor- tunities for women,” said Ellison. “Women have taken the opportunities to get an education and think in dif- ferent ways about what they can do, and electrical distribution has encour- aged that.” “There has always been a small number of women who built solid careers and left their mark in our industry,” said Clouse. “But it wasn’t until the WII group was formed that women started getting recognition from the rest of the industry. When the WII came together, it started get- ting momentum for women. It’s only in the past decade or so that you had a woman chair [of NAED], a woman on the cover of tED, and many other major firsts.”
Challenges Still to Be Faced WII has undoubtedly made it easier for women to improve their skills, become more confident, and gain visibility, but women still face chal- lenges in the workplace due to a vari- ety of factors—none of which are exclusive to electrical distribution. Finding ways to break down those challenges and possibly even use them to attain greater success will be an ongoing process for the industry.
“I believe that women have every capability to rise to any level in their organizations if that’s what they want to do,” said Mazzarella. “But they shouldn’t expect the path to be easy. Anyone who wants to achieve success has to invest the time and the effort to get results. You have to be willing to take some risks and break out of your comfort zone. And you have to make sacrifices and work hard to earn the respect of those around you.” Both Grace and Godwin cited the lack of equal pay for women as a major issue that our industry, like others, is still grappling with. “The biggest challenge is that women don’t get paid the same as men and that’s just a fact across the nation,” said Godwin. “Within the industry, the problem is that it’s just an old-fashioned, nitty-gritty busi- ness. No girls grow up thinking they want to be in electrical distribution. Our challenge is to make it more attractive to everyone, and to make even more effort to recruit young peo- ple and tell our story.” Clouse suggested that the relatively low number of women in the industry could work in the favor of some of these young people who are now join- ing it. “There are so many women in our industry who have been recog- nized, women who are already estab- lished,” said Clouse. “If you have the skills, there will be opportunities be- cause companies now see the benefit of having a diverse workforce.” The ever-elusive work-life balance was cited as a challenge specifically for women by several of the Trail- blazers. “Traditionally, a lot of women are still seen, or have to be, the pri- mary caregiver in their family,” said Goedecke. “To succeed, you really have to devote a huge part of your time and energy to your career. That’s still a barrier for a lot of women. There is always that nagging worry about being a mother, a caregiver, and devoting time to their career. “People think that acknowledging
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