Highlights from Top Women

Live from Chicago, a ground-breaking business-building event.

Chicago—Leaders from across the industry and across the country came to celebrate with HBSDealer during its first, live Top Women in Hardware & Building Supply event. The two-day event could be described as equal parts networking, education, celebration and inspiration. 

The spirit of mutual advancement was palpable during the awards ceremony, and that momentum continued on Thursday with a series of panels that explored recruiting, mentoring and achieving positions of power.  

Alison Dowell, the president and general manager of Oak Brook, Ill.-based distributor Emery Jensen Distribution, shared her story during a panel discussion.

"When I think about what our responsibility is to one another and to women getting into the industry — and really anybody that is different or anybody that doesn't feel like they belong — it's helping them find their place or their seat at the table." 

Dowell was one of dozens of industry leaders who shared their stories or stories of inspiration, or merely their support. Men were far outnumbered by women in the Top Women event ballroom, but the importance of male involvement was noted by several panelists as a factor to advance equity for women in the workplace and the c-suite.

Sarah Dodd, senior vice president of global merchandising at Lowe's, described a male mentor as crucial to her advancement. "So to the men in the room, don't underestimate your influence when it comes to the women that you work with and the women that support you or the women that you're around every day," she said.

a group of people posing for a photo
The U.S. LBM contingent included daughters of honorees, and even CEO L.T. Gibson (center).

The Top Women agenda included a session on the "She-Cession" examining the negative impact of the pandemic on women in the workforce. Another panel examined the pursuit of power with the tagline: "You don't get if you don't ask." And mentorship—a topic that worked its way into the discussions during all of the panels—was explored in depth during a session titled "Mentorship: Who helped you, and how to return the favor."

a woman posing for a picture
Lindsay Carter of YellaWood, left, with Jeanine Froke, Builders FirstSource.

The inspirational tone was set early, with a tribute to Pony Jorgensen founder Adele Holman, who broke barriers in the early 1900s as she pioneered the clamp business. (A cocktail described as "the Adele" was served at the reception.)

Prior to the awards ceremony, sponsored by YellaWood, Lindsay Carter, associate general counsel for Great Southern Wood Preserving, said her company is pursuing efforts to elevate women in the hardware and building supply industry.

"Events like this, which are designed to recognize women leading the charge, are an important step forward," Carter said. "The building segment is growing, and we're seeing a more intentional stance to recognize and reward talent, particularly women in this category." 

Moments before personally distributing commemorative awards to a parade of "Rising Stars" and "Business Excellence" award winners, Carter sounded a theme that rang throughout the two-day event: "When more women ascend into organizations of all sizes, more businesses will succeed," she said. 

That concept of building business through diversity was highlighted during the opening remarks from Amy Grant, associate publisher of HBSDealer, host of the event.

"We can’t stress enough that our mission here has two parts,” Grant explained. “Encourage women to enter the industry and, of course, stay in the industry. And to help them find the people or the resources to advance their careers. And we do that not just because it’s the right thing, but also because diversity is great for business, and it’s good for the industry.”

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