March Blog Series:
March is Women’s History Month, and we’d like to take this opportunity to explore the careers and viewpoints of our hard-working female employees. As a national leader in door, frame, and hardware distribution, as well as security integration, one of our mottos is “Strength in Its People; Strength in Its Industry.” We retain this strong position because of our diverse, talented team. Thank you for your 60+ years of dedication!
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the 9.9 million people working in the construction industry in 2015, only 9.3% were women. At LaForce, these numbers are above the norm: 23% of all employees are women, and 27% of all office employees are women.
LaForce has always been fortunate to employ strong team members and managers. Many of the leaders at LaForce “grew up” in the company. This group of leaders includes individuals from various work groups, education backgrounds, experience levels – and genders. To kick off this blog series, let’s take a look at what LaForce’s female leaders have experienced over the years, and what unique perspectives they can offer.
Take Patricia “Pat” Erdmann, for example. She started at the company nearly 30 years ago in a clerical role, later moving through Estimating and Inside Sales, which has now developed into the Small Projects Specialist position. Over the years, Pat sometimes faced disbelief in her abilities when working with external male customers. But by supplying solutions to their problems and answers to their questions, she earned our customers’ trust in and her gender was no longer an issue.
Many women at LaForce look up to Pat’s leadership and example. She started at the company when she had three young children at home, and juggled a busy family life alongside her day job. During her tenure at LaForce, Pat supplied leadership support for the Milwaukee office for a period of time, and also served as a temporary manager for the Appleton office. Currently, Pat is training her replacement as she looks forward to a well-deserved retirement.
Patrick Connelly, Pat’s manager, had many kind words to describe Pat’s leadership: “Pat Erdmann has always been the go-to person for special projects in the contract department. She’s been able to do some really unique things and we’ve always leaned on her as a leader.”
“We have always leaned on Pat Erdmann as a leader.”
He added, “We’re going to miss her so much – I don’t know what I’ll do without her!”
Jill Pruski is another great example of what it means to be a hard-working LaForce leader. She started with the company 33 years ago, and has been the company Treasurer for the past 25 years. As the first female board appointee, Jill asserts that her gender has never been a drawback. Her leadership philosophy is to surround herself with good people and work hard. As a manager, she believes in training people well and then “stepping back and letting them do their own thing.”
“Don’t let gender be an obstacle, and take ownership. When people take ownership, that’s when they become a leader.” – Jill Pruski, LaForce Treasurer <Tweet This>
Jill enjoys mentoring up-and-coming leaders, both male and female. In her years at LaForce, she has observed that the best leaders are those who think critically and unselfishly, practice patience, and see the bigger picture.
Amanda Cornelissen also has some interesting feedback as to what it means to be a woman in a male-dominated industry. Amanda is the Director of Human Resources and started working at LaForce 12 years ago. She enjoys the dynamic variety of LaForce’s workforce, and especially thrives in the recruiting environment. LaForce doesn’t hire based on gender, but instead seeks qualified candidates that fit the company culture.
Since the construction industry may not be a candidate’s first choice, Amanda works hard to explain that a career at LaForce not only involves working with our products and services, but also is about the work environment and the opportunities for advancement. All candidates tend to appreciate certain LaForce perks such as flexible schedules and the ability to schedule travel requirements around family obligations.
Amanda has taken her role as a female leader in a male-dominated industry in stride. She sees open-mindedness and “looking at the big picture first” as key strengths, and has the following advice for future female leaders:
“Know yourself very well. Being self aware of your strengths and weaknesses can help you when times get tough and challenging.” – Amanda Cornelissen, HR Director
Overall, LaForce employs many amazing female leaders that deserve recognition this month and year-round. The women who serve in these key positions – such as Pat, Jill, and Amanda – have humbly proven their expertise in the industry. Thank you!