March 23, 2023
Now in its fifth year of existence, the Advanced Textiles Association (ATA) Women in Textiles brought together many of the industry’s female leaders and future leaders for opportunities to network, commiserate and collaborate.
The summit, which took place in Charleston, S.C. March 1-3, has nearly doubled in attendance since its inaugural run in 2019. Nearly 120 textile professionals gathered for the latest event to reconnect, learn and gain inspiration with peers who share similar experiences and journeys in a traditional male-dominated manufacturing sector. These women were able to share their experiences through several networking events and activities; gain insights into paths to success; and hear compelling speakers with timely, relevant messages.
The unique event featured engaging sessions, straightforward interaction and connection-building opportunities during business sessions and activities that included receptions, dinners, history and ghost walks and a morning Mentor Walk & Talk through the time-honoured streets of Charleston. Indeed, the summit provided a forum for growth and leadership for these women seeking growth, empowerment and rapport. The gathering explored how women are contributing to the success of their organizations and the industry at large.
The summit also included engaging roundtable discussions, where participants learned more about each other and the challenges they face. Topics included CRM Systems & Marketing Automation; Supply Chain; Maximizing Motivation and Engagement; Time Management; and Mental Health & Wellness Advocacy in the Workplace.
Another highlight was “Rapid One-Ones,” likened to “speed dating,” where attendees lined up and spent a couple of minutes speaking with another attendee to learn more about their background and experience before rotating to the next person.
Co-emcees Debbie Grant, chief of staff at MMI Textiles, Brooklyn, Ohio, and Jenny Nichols, global marketing manager – Engineered Coated Fabrics at Trelleborg, Greenville, S.C., led the sessions with confidence, aplomb and humor.
A number of returning attendees were on hand, along with many first timers, including Kelly Murphy, co-owner and co-president of Bolger & O’Hearn, Inc., Fall River, Mass.
“The Women in Textiles Summit was insightful as much as it was motivating,” she said. “Being able to connect with other women in our industry helped to strengthen my resolve to forge ahead as a woman in what is notoriously a man’s world. The opportunities to network with other industry leaders was invaluable. We may have been first time attendees, but this won’t be the only or last time we attend this amazing event.”
Third-time attendee Cherie “Cheryl” Petrovic, president & CEO of Therm-Equip, Inc., Ravenna, Ohio, added that she was “pleased that over a hundred leaders shared time and knowledge with us at the Women in Textiles event. The networking opportunities are ample and have been worth the price of the ticket. We’ve learned from one another across all lines and leave refreshed and inspired by new ways of doing old things.”
Dr. Melissa Furman, MS, DBA, owner/consultant at Career Potential LLC, was on the docket during both business sessions, first as the Day 1 keynoter. A dynamic expert in the areas of generational diversity, unconscious bias, leadership success and emotional intelligence, she presented an interactive session, “Navigate, Elevate, Accelerate,” where she provided practical strategies and recommendations to help overcome challenges and achieve professional goals.
Dr. Furman discussed how to develop a strong brand, build impactful relationships, communicate with power and influence, negotiate and more. She brought her background in higher education – particularly business, counseling and psychology – to the conversation to help individuals and organizations achieve success.
She pointed out that 50.8 % of the U.S. population are women, and that women make up 47 %t of the workforce. Fifty-three percent of the college-educated workforce are women, and 43 percent of professional and management jobs are held by women, she added. At 30 percent, women are underrepresented in manufacturing and are 1.8 times more likely to leave the sector, she noted, citing Deloitte.
On Day 2, she led a Burnout Workshop on “Emerging Stronger: Refresh, Refuel, Recharge,” another interactive session that utilized engaging exercises to help women identify, prevent and overcome burnout.
An insightful panel discussion, “Next in Textiles— The Future is Female,” featured three participants – two who entered textiles with no experience in the industry – all offering incredibly distinct backgrounds. Moderated by Nichols, the panel included Nichole Holroyd, COO, Spiritus Systems; Donielle Lorelli, product manager of Textiles, National Industries for the Blind; and Kaylee Smith, North America Sales at Mehler Engineered Products Inc.
Also, Robin Ritz, creative visionary & owner at InCord, Colchester, Conn., presented the “ABCs of Workplace Success” – with A being authentic, B being bold and C being communicating. She explored practical insights for achieving satisfaction and success without compromising one’s integrity or values. She explained how attendees can “show up” for themselves and build positive, trusting relationships with others. The discussion invited listeners to self-examine, and contained opportunities for self-reflection as well as group interaction, and included worksheets.
“The summit was an amazing opportunity to connect with women from all facets of the industry,” said Hilary Walker, lead material innovator at Nike. “It was a very collaborative and welcoming space in which we could discuss problems and solutions as well as experiences and future endeavors. The summit was an amazing opportunity to meet mentors as well as new friends.”
About Advanced Textiles Association
Advanced Textiles Association (ATA) is a member-owned, member-driven trade association representing the specialty fabrics and technical textiles industry since 1912. ATA provides members with relevant information, sourcing solutions and networking opportunities to sustain and grow their business. For more information visit Textiles.org.