Topic: Women in the work force

US LBM EVP of culture addresses recruitment and retention.
Kenneth Clark
Editor in Chief
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Wendy Whiteash

If you ever run into Wendy Whiteash on the other side of a job interview, be prepared for the following question: “Can you tell me about a time when you have made your workplace or your work process better?”

That question, she says, reflects one of her closely held beliefs when it comes to business success: It’s important to recruit people who are adaptable and versatile in their skills, and who bring a willingness to use their voice for the good of the company. The chief human resources officer and executive VP of culture for Buffalo Grove, Ill.-based US LBM, Whiteash also points out that these qualities have only increased in value since the coronavirus outbreak and all the challenges that come with it.

Whiteash – who will participate on a recruitment-and-retention panel during the upcoming Top Women in Hardware & Building Supply event in Chicago -- is also a believer that diversity contributes to the bottom-line. Among her objectives as a senior HR leader, she says, is bringing successful, capable women into the candidate pool.

“The industry has been chipping away at gender gap disparities at the entry level for years,” she says. “I have always believed, and I still believe, that the way to get more people into our industry, including women, younger people and experienced workers from other industries, is to show career paths, and to show opportunity for growth,” she said.

Register for the event

Registration is now open for the 2021 edition of Top Women in Hardware & Building Supply.

The program honors women making outstanding contributions to their companies and their communities. The goal of the program, now in its second year and established by HBSDealer, is to recognize achievement and promote diversity. 

The event is scheduled for Nov. 10 - Nov. 11 at the Fairmont Chicago hotel. Registration and additional information about the event are available here.

“A lot of companies have been trying to attract women into the workforce now for a couple of decades. As an industry, we’ve been talking about it at conferences and have made some incremental improvements. It’s important for everyone in an organization to see the opportunities that exist, and the roles they can aspire to. With wider representation at every level, women can see that there are greater opportunities for them.”

The effort to cast a wider net is designed to boost performance, she said. And increasingly, she’s finding winning qualities in women who are applying for roles that have traditionally been filled by men.

Shattering the preconceptions about the industry and the work environment are major contributors to the increasing the appeal of the industry to women.

“Innovation and technology have made the physical requirements and working conditions much safer than. they used to be.”
There’s also a lot more women in the workforce than there used to be. “So, when we need to fill these important roles in our organizations, the wider you cast your net, the better chance you have at finding the right candidates and future contributors to your team,” she said.

Meanwhile, the pandemic has changed the way the industry thinks about getting work done. Successful organizations need a broader set of skills to meet new challenges, and those skills and solutions can come from a more diverse team with different perspectives, Whiteash says.

“It’s a time for aspiring leaders to really be a part of the solution, and help transform organizations to come out of this stronger on the other side.

“I think it’s a really empowering time for women.”