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Wisdom From Women Leading the Heavy Industry

We work with a lot of heavy industry brands here at Simantel. Brands that push boundaries and bring a sense of fierceness, grit and determination to everything they do. And the people who make up these brands are no different. They live these values in the work they do and the way they lead. But it’s not always easy – especially when you’re a woman making a name for yourself in a historically male-dominated field.

We are lucky to have met a few of the fierce women taking the heavy industry by storm. These women lead some of the world’s hardest working brands – and the wealth of knowledge, advice and stories they carry is truly inspirational. In fact, we even recorded a whole season of our podcast dedicated to women leading in heavy industry brands. But in the meantime, we asked them to share some of their stories – digging into their greatest insights, toughest challenges and best advice they’ve come upon through the years.

What Inspired You to Pursue a Career in a Heavy Industry?

When I was fourteen years old, I was a proud helper of my father’s HVAC business – a professional “tool carrier.” After my brother was in a traumatic car accident and my mom was surviving breast cancer, I branched into the medical field. I wanted to know how to “fix people.” My roots brought me back to the HVAC world, where I still get to help aid people’s needs just in a different way.
Leann Morris, Controls Account Manager at R&R Controls

Was There a Specific Moment in Your Career That Shaped How You Show Up as a Woman in the Heavy Industry?

I remember one specific incident – I’d been in the field for six years or so at the time, and there was a natural gas plant being constructed that I had designed and got the permits for. I scheduled a meeting on site with the Department of Environmental Protection and my client. I had never met some of the individuals that were higher up at my client’s company, and when we all showed up on site, a couple of the more senior people at my client called back to my corporate office in Pittsburgh and asked that they please send a more senior male for the meeting. I was totally devastated. And so mad. I was the one that designed it, so I was the one that knew it. Fortunately, the engineer from my company showed up and said to me, “I don’t know anything about this project because I haven’t been working on it, so I’m just going to stand here while you run the meeting.” And that was perfect, because he was supporting me and knew that I knew what I was doing. So, I ran the meeting and at the end, the gentlemen from my client apologized to me.
Lauren Parker, Vice President of Operations at Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc.

Have you Seen any Shifts in the Way Gender and Diversity is Acknowledged in Your Industry?

Yes – first of all, it’s actually Women in Construction Week right now (March 5-11). This is the 25th year that the National Association for Women in Construction has been celebrating this particular week. When I first started in my career 18 years ago, I was one of the only females in the central Illinois market who worked for a general contractor. And I recently realized that on an upcoming project we’ll be working on, over 60% of the work being performed – by all the different firms and organizations involved – is by entities led by female presidents. How cool is that? 60%, compared to when I first started my career, it was hard to even find a female in the industry. I think the construction industry at large has recognized the need for diverse perspectives. And those diverse perspectives – including but not limited to gender – are really what is continuing to push our industry forward.
Leanne Skuse, President of River City Construction

What are Your Core Beliefs or Lessons Learned on the Job That Have Shaped Your Leadership Philosophy?

It’s really important to empower your people. And to do that, it’s really important to understand their learning styles. When you understand how your employees and your peers learn and communicate, that’s when the good stuff happens. Personally, I would rather pick up the phone and talk to somebody than have them write me a three-paragraph email – but I work with a lot of people that feel the opposite. So, I’m all about enabling them to do what they need to do to communicate. I think that we move so fast to say, “get this done, this done, this done,” but if we’re not communicating in the way that those around us learn, they might not be understanding. When people are struggling, instead of saying, “well, this isn’t working,” or “they don’t get it,” I think you have to step back and try to understand their style. We talk about compassion a lot in today’s world, but there really are these vastly different ways people learn, and I don’t think we do enough to recognize that.
Aryn Drawdy, Corporate Communications Director at AGCO

As Women, we Sometimes Struggle to Recognize Our Value or Worthiness Outside of Our More Traditional Gender Roles. How and When Did you Recognize Your Own Inherent Value?

I learned it from my daughter. She was eleven at the time and had gotten into a situation at school where some boys were picking on her and teasing her for something that she was doing. And she took probably the opposite approach I would have – she wrote down on a little piece of paper “I do not need your validation to live my life,” with a little fierce looking frowny face next to it. I loved it so much, I kept it. I have it on my computer monitor at home to remind me that as women, we so often get validation from being achievers and from putting ourselves last. We’re expected to serve others and to please and not really think about what we want or what’s good for us. It took me a long time to learn that I didn’t need to throw myself on the tracks for the train to stop. And those words of wisdom from my daughter is my reminder. I want to be able to harness that ferocity and that spirit – for me and for others as well.
Amy Volz, Head of Workforce Innovation – Talent & Organizational Capability at Trane Technologies

What Piece of Advice Would you Pass on to Others, Especially Other Women Just Starting Their Careers in This Industry?

It is okay to walk away when something is wasting your energy. It too is okay to stand-up for yourself and others, and to speak with confidence that inappropriate treatment is not tolerated. Understand that when people treat you badly, it’s from their own ignorance and their own insecurity. Plan your course, work hard and be courageous.
Kimberley Hayes, Founder of Valkim Technologies

Don’t be afraid to consider a career in the heavy industry. When I first started working in bulk material handling, I was looking for a change in my career and was given the opportunity to learn – and the more I learned the more I became passionate about it. Now I don’t see myself doing anything else. You’ll change the stereotype by finding success in this industry. And there are plenty of opportunities to grow and succeed.
Vivi Woodford, President of AW Process LLC


At Simantel, we’re grateful for the opportunity to work alongside and learn from the outstanding women making waves in the world. If you were inspired by the stories here, don’t forget to check out the newest season of our Marketing Sweats podcast now live.

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