AWMI: Offering Opportunities to Women in the Metal Industries

Written by Sandy Williams

“The glass ceiling is myth that gives you an excuse to fail.”

A bold statement to make at a gathering of professional women, but that is what keynote speaker Mary Lindsey, Vice President and CFO Commercial Metals Co., said at the Association of Women in the Metal Industries annual conference last week.

“There is too much pressure on women to break the glass ceiling,” said Lindsey, urging the AWMI members to disregard it. “As far as you are concerned, it is not there. Do whatever you can today, the best you can, and people will take notice and provide you opportunities.”

No successful corporate woman talks about the glass ceiling, said Lindsey; they are confident they can do their jobs as well as any man and enjoy their own accomplishments.

Lindsey noted that the industry and corporate world are changing, as evidenced by the increased number of women in positions of leadership. Give 200 percent effort to your company, welcome risks and opportunities, and success will follow, she said.

Lindsey’s presentation was one of several at the AWMI conference in St. Pete Beach, Fla., on Nov. 8-10, encouraging women to be confident and step out of their comfort zones.

More than 200 women (and a few men) registered this year, making it the largest conference attendance ever for AWMI.  

Attendees included women representing a variety of metal sectors and ranging from clerical positions to sales, purchasing to metallurgists, to executive leadership and ownership. This group of women demonstrated that the metals industry is no longer just a male dominion.

AWMI function

Supporting the advancement of women in the metal industries is the mission of the AWMI. The association is comprised of 20 chapters across the U.S. and its cornerstone goals are to educate, grow, network and mentor.

“Everything we do revolves around those four goals,” said AWMI International President Carol Chizmar.

AWMI metal

Educational programs are offered at the chapter, regional and national level. Networking helps to grow membership, increase business contacts and provide a communication channel for women to address challenges facing the industry. Mentoring is a high priority, both informally and through a formal program that matches members with industry professionals.

Membership and involvement in AWMI activities and on boards provides a way to gain skill sets that help women to advance their careers and become positive role models.

AWMI Dinner“AWMI is a really broad-reaching organization that teaches you a lot of skills,” said Chizmar. “When you get on the board, it is like running your own business.”    

Added Chizmar, “A lot of the women that project the positive role models are the women that are out there in outside sales. Many of them have come through AWMI and have gained the skills that allow them to do that. They would tell you, ‘I would never have gone for this job or gained the job skills to do that if it wasn’t for AWMI.’”

That sentiment was echoed frequently by members that SMU spoke with during the conference.

When asked if things have changed much for women in a male-dominated industry, Chizmar said she was fortunate to belong to a company that is very supportive of women. Chizmar has worked in the industry for 35 years in a variety of roles including sales management, supply chain and, currently, as New Business Coordinator at aluminum company Hydro.

Although AWMI encourages diversity in the industry, what companies are looking for is the best candidate for the job, said Chizmar. The confidence and skill building acquired through AWMI can put women in that candidate position. AWMI is “giving them the courage to go after those jobs where they may not have before,” she said.

What’s next for AWMI? Chizmar said the organization is working hard to attract younger people through social media and events to keep them interested. “I think that for those of us who have been in the organization a long time–it will be 35 years for me next year–we have different goals and lifestyles than the millennials do,” said Chizmar. “Before, when we joined, there wasn’t anything else that gave us what we get out of this organization. Today, the younger people have more options.”

“It’s been 37 years since we were formed in 1981 and we look forward to another 37 years,” said Chizmar. “Our organization will look different, but the core of it will still be there.”

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