Kitchen & Bath Design News

MAR 2019

Kitchen & Bath Design News is the industry's leading business, design and product resource for the kitchen and bath trade.

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March is Women's History Month, so it seems like an opportune moment to reflect on the career challenges and growth of women in the kitchen and bath industry. Women play many roles, including as consumers, specifiers, man- agers, influencers and industry leaders. But it hasn't always been that way. WAY BACK WHEN Suzie Williford, the National Kitchen & Bath Association's executive v.p. of industry rela- tions, wasn't planning on a kitchen and bath industry career in the 1970s when her father asked her to help out in the family's commer- cial plumbing and hardware showroom for a couple of weeks. "I was answering phones for two dollars an hour. It was supposed to be temporary," she muses about the company that was created for the men in her family to build a legacy. "Eighteen years later, all the men were gone and I was running the business!" That legacy business had grown to 13 showrooms and 60-plus sales professionals, she reflects. "It was difficult for women to even get a foot in the door, so I consider myself lucky to have met a woman contractor who agreed to hire me as a carpenter's apprentice," shares Tamara Myers about her late '70s beginnings. She is now the owner of her own Philadelphia-based construction company, Myers Constructs. "I am grateful to the many clients that hired me when it was unusual to have women working in my field; many included professional women who wanted to give [another] woman an opportuni- ty." Suppliers were often more challenging, she notes, and would sometimes refuse to wait on her at the counter. Raven Hoffman also started out on the con- struction side. In fact, the senior estimator at Syverson Tile & Stone in Sioux Falls, SD grew up in the business. "Outings with my grandpar- ents usually involved stopping at construction sites to check on projects my grandfather was working on." Being one of only two women in a college-level construction management program 20 years ago didn't faze her, nor did being one of the only women working in the field after graduation. "On several occasions, I was the only woman in a room full of men bidding on cabinets," says Florence Perchuk, "and, yes, I was referred to as the 'decorator,'" the long- time kitchen and bath designer shares. Her clients were thrilled to work with a woman, she recalls. "I spent time with them, wanted to know food likes of the children, how they cooked, always what the dream was about." While Perchuk spent most of her career in New York, becoming one of the first women to become a Certified Kitchen Designer and get- ting published in many of the design world's top magazines, she's now based in the Palm Springs area, designing for aging in place. "I remember when female consumers would tell us how frustrated they were when professionals would talk to their husbands, not them, during a remodel," recalls Nora DePalma, veteran kitchen and bath industry marketing executive and founder of Atlanta- based Dialogue. It happened to her once, too, she muses, but the salesman had no idea she knew the top leaders at the brand he was representing! Leaders like those are her agency clients now, and they fully appreciate the importance of talking directly with female con- sumers. After all, many women are spending their own money, not a husband's, on projects and products these days. MOVING UP Women have probably always been in this business – on its 'softer' sides. "There were a lot of women at my level in sales and marketing when I first entered the kitchen and bath indus- try," DePalma recalls, "but not a lot in corporate leadership, engineering or manufacturing. There were, however, many running their own businesses in kitchen and bath design." There still are! Perchuk also saw many professional women at the national design magazines eager to Women in the Kitchen & Bath Field BY JAMIE GOLD, CKD, CAPS, MCTWC Women have always been in the industry, but increasingly they are becoming visible as leaders and working to sup- port future professionals. Tamara Myers of Myers Constructs. From carpenter to contractor, Myers' talents come through for clients. NKBA programs promoted by Williford allow women designers to shine. Suzie Williford of the National Kitchen & Bath Association Marketing pro Nora DePalma has been working with leading industry clients like DXV for decades. Photo: National Kitchen & Bath Association Photo: 2018 NKBA Design Competition/Designer: Sandra Steiner-Houck/Photo: Peter Leach Photography Photo: Myers Constructs, Inc./ Anne Saint Peter Photography Photo: Myers Constructs, Inc./Linda McManus Images Photo: DXV 40 Kitchen & Bath Design News • March 2019 TREND SPOTTING

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