By Kathy Foster
When I started working in the metal fabrication industry, I was one of the few women – and to be honest, we remain heavily outnumbered by men even today.
Now, I work in sales for Threadline Products Inc., which acquired Atlantic Bolt Inc. in Feb 2022. Prior to our acquisition I worked for Atlantic Bolt since 1987.
When I first started in this industry more than 45 years ago, I took a position in the accounting department at a steel fabricator. I worked my way into the purchasing department. Eventually, I went to work with Jim Boyles and Ernie Lambert, and they took me with them when they set up their place, Atlantic Bolt
Are you lost, ma’am?
Part of my job is to be on the lookout for new opportunities. A few years back, I was on my way to work and passed a car dealership under construction. I pulled in to ask if I could talk to anyone about their steel fabrication needs.
The man who came to greet me looked at me like I must be lost. I told him our company would fit his anchor and structural bolt needs well. And once he realized I knew the business, he was very open to discussing his needs.
That encounter was just one of many that I have had over the years. Women have always had to prove themselves before people take them seriously. But, I do not believe that should discourage a woman – it just means she has to know the business.
Take, for example, purchasing. I have recently seen more women in this business area, which is good. But a woman should not take on a purchasing role and then just blindly buy whatever the others tell them. Women and men need to learn the industry so that they can think for themselves.
Learning the Business
When I first started learning about the business, I had to read many books and ask many questions. If a woman is working for a good company, they should take the time to teach her and show her. She should take advantage of the opportunities because knowledge is the way to earn respect.
The other day I was talking to a male customer who had come into the shop when another male employee walked into the room. The customer stopped talking to me and started asking the male employee his questions.
I could have gotten angry and defensive, but in the long run, it’s better to stop and educate the person. I explained that I was the one who understood what he was talking about, so he could either talk to another man or he could get what he needed.
Education is the key. As a woman in the steel fabrication industry, you will be tested by people who think you don’t know what you are talking about. You will have to prove yourself. If you don’t have the answers, admit it and find them.
Threadline Products believes that all our employees have something to offer our customers. And we treat each customer as an individual – like they are the only customer we have. Our core values are Fast, Flexible and At your Service. Which means we will always strive to meet our customers’ needs where they are.
If you want to learn more about the Threadline difference and our products, contact us today.