The role and treatment of women in the workplace, especially in traditionally male-dominated sectors such as manufacturing and industrial distribution, remains an area where progress still needs to be made.
Just because there aren't blatant abuses witnessed by outside parties doesn't mean everything is as it should be. Those interviewed for a report on the recently started Women in NAHAD initiative related stories that have happened to them. NAHAD is an association servicing those involved in the hose distribution and manufacturing business—an area where females remain a small, but growing minority.
Some said women still may be looked at like as unqualified. One is a department head and she said customers calling in will ask her to speak to the boss, meaning a man.
And sexual harassment remains an issue some females face. As one woman working in sales for a major hose manufacturer related, some of her male colleagues don't believe such gender issues are prevalent in the workplace anymore, and they believe that a program such as WIN shines an unnecessary spotlight on the industry. They feel that because they treat females equally and properly, that everyone else must as well.
She counters that while things may be better in an office where others are present, it's different for women who are out in the field on their own. Sometimes the actions are subtle, while some males still are extremely forward, knowing they're being inappropriate. She said you learn to deflect and deal with the situations, which normally improve over time.
Now NAHAD's WIN initiative isn't necessarily geared toward ending such treatment, but it can play a vital role. Its stated purpose is to provide a forum for women in the hose business to network and discuss issues of interest to women in the workplace. The founders weren't looking to form a group to bash men. They see WIN as a support group, a place where women can share their experiences and see that they're not alone.
Recruiting can be another benefit of the program. There's no solid numbers, but NAHAD's executive director estimates no more than 10-15 percent of the association are women. It's not a glamorous industry by and standards. Those in sales may be traveling to underground mines, manufacturing plants, food processing facilities and other rugged environments. But as more females thrive in the business, they can begin to bring in the next generation of women to the industry.
Change won't happen overnight. Those behind WIN need to be patient, give the program a chance to find its role and the leaders an opportunity to determine what they want to achieve. At the same time, they must make sure the effort is consistent, with communication ongoing throughout the year. Because something that just happens once a year at an annual convention won't be enough to bring the desired—and needed—results.