Industry Leading Ladies

In January 2015, the Pew Research Center released survey results in its “Women and Leadership” trends update. In the update, it was reported that since the 1990s women have outpaced men in enrolling in and completing college, and today women are more likely to continue their education after college than men. The center noted that these are significant changes, considering that the reverse was true through the 1970s. 

Women are using newfound education opportunities to enter specialized and credentialed professions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Annual Current Population Survey, in 2015 of the 157 medical scientists who responded 54.9% were women; of the 282 pharmacists who responded 57% were women; and of the 193 psychologists who responded 70.3% were women.  

Pew Research Center asserted that its survey showed Americans believe women are as equally qualified as men for professional positions. With such a sentiment and supporting data, the center had to dig deeper in its quest to answer the question of barriers to gender inequality in the workforce. Two primary barriers were discovered 1) Double standards in judgement of work ethic and 2) Lack of readiness for women leadership.

The plumbing, heating and cooling (PHC) industry is feeling the result of such barriers. According to the BLS survey results, of the 573 pipe layers, plumbers, pipefitters, steamfitters who responded 0.7% were women; of the 408 heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers who responded 1.7% were women; and of the 323 mechanical engineers who responded 8.3% were women.

Despite the odds, Plumbing Engineer magazine believes that though ladies in industry may be small in number, they are mighty in impact. Thus, this is the first of an ongoing series intent on spotlighting barrier breakers and inspiring change for the future of this workforce.

Francesca Dunbar
McWane Plumbing Group 
Director of Group Marketing

Dunbar has been involved in the plumbing industry for the past four years as the director of Group Marketing for McWane Plumbing Group. She has a reputation as a strategic thinker who thrives in multi-disciplinary environments, driving planning and implementation. 

Her roots were deep in leadership for a high-tech industry before departing corporate life in 2000 to launch her marketing consulting career. Dunbar consulted briefly for a plumbing brand before accepting the position with McWane. She enjoys the new challenges this industry brings. 

Dunbar is proud of her professional achievements, especially being named the first woman corporate director for Atmel, a multi-billion dollar semiconductor corporation. As the director of Worldwide Communications she led a global team and $10 million annual marketing budget. 

She is passionate about giving back and served on several non-profit foundation boards. As an officer on the board of directors for The National Brain Tumor Foundation, she was an integral member of the team that led a successful merger. Dunbar is also a published writer of industry articles and technical papers, and previously wrote for a lifestyle magazine. 

Ingrid Mattsson
Director of Brand Management

Working in this industry was never Mattsson’s plan, but it has been one of the best experiences of her life. She values creativity, whether it’s art, gardening, cooking or singing. One of the reasons she enjoys her work so much is that creativity is plentiful, whether it’s installers working to find solutions for projects or agencies developing messaging to sell products. She also loves the teamwork side of the business. Mattsson feels fortunate to work closely with smart, dedicated, honest and fun people who really care about what they do.

At Uponor for 20 years, Mattsson leads the care and management of the brand — ranging from advertising to public relations and communications. Her role has included managing the company’s change from Wirsbo to Uponor in 2006, and being a founding member of the company’s sustainability team. She has served as vice chair on the Radiant Professionals Alliance Board for four years, and in 2015 she was named a Dakota County Minnesota Exceptional Businesswoman.

Mattsson would like to see more women in the industry. She believes there are many opportunities for women to shine with their unique talents, and is working to spread this news.

Linnete Velez- McKnight
Tyco Fire Protection Products
Global Product Marketing Leader

McKnight has spent her 20-year career bringing products to market through the creation of strategic customer-oriented campaigns and partnerships. As a leader of Product Marketing for Tyco, she has updated marketing efforts to leverage current technology, maximizing the reach to global customers and identifying their unique needs to the Tyco organization.  

In 2015, McKnight spearheaded the development of a sales enablement tool, the GRINNELL App, which provides up-to-the minute information to customers on the GRINNELL product line. The app increased customer engagement by 33 percent.  

McKnight was awarded the Tyco Value Award for Accountability in September 2015 for her leadership efforts, and is a member of the Woman’s Growth Network at Tyco. Prior to Tyco, she was a leader of Product Marketing for Motorola, where she received several awards for execution of trade events, participation and presence for marketing endeavors, and efforts in global inclusion and diversity.

Stella Crewse 
Morgan Miller Plumbing

Growing up  working on cars with her dad, Crewse refers to herself as a “farm girl” at heart. One of her first jobs was mixing paint for contractors at a local paint store. In 2003, Crewse, a degreed accountant, joined Morgan Miller Plumbing as a part-time bookkeeper. In 2006, she became office manager and was quickly promoted to controller. 

Crewse spearheaded a company rebranding and reorganization, identifying the company’s focus, values, and culture, and creating a strategic plan that was sharply focused on the company’s ideals. In 2013, Crewse was promoted to her current role as CEO, taking on full responsibility of overseeing all company operations. 

In her community, she is secretary of the Board for the South Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Central Exchange, a graduate of the Kay Barnes and South Kansas City Chamber of Commerce leadership programs, and a lifelong Girl Scout.

Tammy Ferris
Gene Love Plumbing

Ferris graduated from Campbell University in 1982 with a degree in Fiduciary Management. Unable to find a job in her field, she rode along with her then husband in his plumbing truck each day until she could find work. In a few short months, the owners of Gene Love Plumbing asked Ferris to come to work in their office.  

In her new role, she found herself managing the office and technicians. Eventually, Ferris was named service manager. By 2006, both of the original owners of the company had retired. It was at this time that Ferris took ownership of the business.  

In this industry, Ferris has served on the Nexstar Board of Directors for seven years. Three of those years, she was chair of the board— the first woman to hold the position. 

Rae Lynn Piccioli
Power Plumbing & Sewer Contractors
Operations Manager

Piccioli was born into the plumbing business. Her father established Power Plumbing in Chicago in 1960. As part of a tight-knit Italian family, she grew up helping around the shop and learning about the business alongside her father, mother and siblings. 

In 1999, Piccioli was promoted to operations manager. At her father’s insistence for a proper industry education, she underwent five years of training at Chicago’s Local 130 Union Journeymen Plumbers Apprentice Program. She officially became a licensed plumber in 2003. 

She is an active member of the community, participating in yearly charitable events and several local chambers of commerce. With Piccioli’s help, Power Plumbing has earned over 35 Angie’s List Super Service Awards with over 1,000 reviews, and holds a 4.5-star rating on Yelp.

Brianne Hall
Fishbeck Thompson Carr & Huber
Senior Mechanical Engineer

Hall began her engineering consulting career in 2006 as a mechanical engineer, working primarily in HVAC systems design. In 2008, she joined Fishbeck Thompson Carr & Huber (FTCH) and began learning the complexities of plumbing design engineering.

She has experience designing mechanical and plumbing systems in many types of facilities ranging from educational buildings and research laboratories to public works facilities. Over her career, she has earned the designations of P.E., CPD, LEED AP BD+C, and GGP. In 2016, she was honored by her peers as the first woman to receive the John E. Matthews Engineer of the Year award by the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) Michigan chapter.

Hall feels her work is most rewarding when her engineering abilities and a client’s particular needs intersect, resulting in a successful project and satisfied clients. She is a member of the Michigan ASSE chapter and the ASSE National Code Committee; serves as Eastern Michigan American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE) vice president of Technical and ASPE National Technical and Research Committee member; and is a member of the Code Study and Development Group of Southeastern Michigan.

Christine Moseley
Burns DeLatte & McCoy Consulting Engineers

Moseley distinctly recalls a boom in MEP high rise designer recruitment of women in the 1970s. She specifically remembers an ad from I.A. Naman + Associates that stated, “Housewives: Bored? Kids in school?” Moseley remembers this specific ad because it is what led her to become one of the first women  trained in MEP design in the Houston, Texas area. 

Since then, she has gone on to work for several MEP firms, earning CPD, LEED AP, and GPD designations in addition to a B.F.A. in Environmental Design & Art History. Over her career, she has witnessed design transition from the boards, to CAD and now BIM.  

Today, Moseley’s work at Burns DeLatte & McCoy Consulting Engineers Inc. (BDMI) is concentrated on hospital and lab projects. She has served as The American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE) Houston chapter’s vice president of Legislative, and currently holds the position of historian in the chapter. She is indebted to the society for its support of the plumbing designer community. Moseley plans to retire in 2018 to focus on portrait painting. 

Mary Jo Peterson
Mary Jo Peterson, Inc.

Peterson is an award-winning designer and president of her Connecticut-based design firm that focuses on residential projects and provides design support to major homebuilders and product manufacturers nationwide. Certified in kitchen, bath, aging-in-place and active adult housing design, with 25 years of experience, she has earned CKD, CBD, CAPS and CAASH designations. Her work has received national recognition, including induction into the National Kitchen + Bath Association (NKBA) Hall of Fame in 2009. 

She has authored three books and is a frequent speaker and educator. With specific expertise in universal design, Peterson has made significant contributions to the educational efforts of the NKBA, developing the association’s practices and guidelines pertaining to universal design. 

Peterson is an active member of the NKBA and National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Currently serving on a number of cross-agency committees, she works to improve function and flexibility for every household member on each of her projects. Because of design work and commitment to the field, she has received citations from the NKBA, NAHB, American Institute of Architects, Century 21, National Endowment for the Arts and the Building Sciences Museum, and Easter Seals.

Barbara Higgens
Plumbing Manufacturers 
International CEO and Executive Director

Higgens joined Plumbing Manufacturers International (PMI) in 1998 as the association’s first direct employee and woman CEO. Higgens has revamped PMI with staff, office space, strategic planning, issue-focused meetings and membership value enhancement. In January, she spearheaded PMI’s humanitarian effort of providing filtered faucets to Flint, Michigan.

A graduate of Northern Illinois University, prior to her work at PMI Higgens was the first woman and youngest person to be named the director of marketing at Switchcraft Inc., a division of Raytheon Company. She was selected to participate in Raytheon’s Advanced Management Program Executive MBA Program. In 2008, Higgens was chair of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Council of Manufacturing Associations (CMA) Board of Directors. In 2012, she co-founded the Plumbing Industry Leadership Coalition (PILC).

Today, she works with: Rotary International; Chicago Highlanders Bagpipe Band; United States Department of Industry Trade Advisory Committee; and Crystal Vision/World Vision Storehouse as a recipient of its Lifetime Achievement Award and newly named chair of the executive committee. 

Ashley Martin
General Manager of PEX Piping Systems

In 2015, Martin was promoted to her current role as general manager of PEX Piping Systems at NIBCO’s manufacturing facility in Lebanon, Ohio. Martin graduated from the NIBCO Sales Training Program in 2012, receiving the Sales Trainee of the Year award. She served as director of Distribution and Transportation before being promoted to her current role. 

Martin is co-founder, and upcoming chairwoman, of the American Supply Association (ASA) Women in Industry division. She also serves on the ASA Young Executives’ Board. As director of The Rex and Alice A. Martin Foundation, Martin’s philanthropy work includes the donation of $50,000 to Riverview Elementary School in Elkhart, Indiana, in 2013 — the largest donation in the school’s history. 

Martin graduated with honors from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana with a degree in marketing. She earned an MBA in strategy and operations management from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and spent six months studying at the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark.

Kathryn Poehling
First Supply
Chief Operating Officer

Poehling joined First Supply in 2012, holding a number of positions including managing counter sales operations. In 2015, Poehling became the first woman to hold a chief operating officer role in the company’s 118-year history. With this promotion, Poehling is now responsible for 14 Kitchen & Bath Stores under the Gerhard’s and Kohler Signature Store brands. 

Under her leadership, she emphasizes the need for the industry to be a current contributor and relevant resource. As a result, First Supply’s Kitchen & Bath Stores have become a key resource for contractors and manufacturers by bringing consumers into the professional channel rather than the do-it-yourself market.  

Before joining First Supply, Poehling was a senior consultant with Deloitte Tax. She obtained a  Bachelor of Science from Arizona State University and J.D. from University of Notre Dame. In 2014, Poehling co-founded the American Supply Association Women in Industry division to ensure industry recruitment of women professionals as well as preservation and promotion of women veterans in the industry. Poehling is a board member for the Habitat for Humanity Wisconsin State Support Organization and chair of the Wisconsin American Heart Association Go Red for Women La Crosse Group.

Stephanie Abeling
Consumers Pipe & Supply
Senior Accountant

Abeling always wanted to work in the family business. She is the fourth generation of 50-year-old, California-based Consumers Pipe & Supply. She remembers making catalogs in the family’s garage, being the company receptionist during summer breaks in high school, and riding down to the office to pick up month-end reports from time to time.

She graduated with a liberal arts degree from California State University, Fullerton. Upon graduation, she was offered a full-time junior accountant position at US Airconditioning Distributors, after working in the accounting department while in school. She went on to work at the company for 10 years, moving up the ranks to become a senior accountant in 2011.

Abeling is new to the industry, taking on her current role in 2015. To get acclimated, she is currently continuing her education through the American Supply Association (ASA) University Master of Distribution Program. She is also attending training courses, such as the University of Innovative Distribution (UID) and building her network through involvement with groups such as ASA Young Executives and ASA Women In Industry.

Dalyn Cantrell
Viega LLC
Vice President of Sales & Marketing

Cantrell  directs all aspects of sales including inside sales, customer service and marketing at Viega LLC. She is also a member of the Viega LLC Executive Committee, the company’s leadership team. 

Under her leadership, Viega LLC has experienced tremendous growth in sales and developed an award-winning marketing team. From its conception in 2007, Cantrell has organized and developed the company’s inside sales team, dramatically advancing Viega’s ability to provide personalized customer service. 

Over the years, she has been a member of several professional organizations, including the Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association (PPFA), National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), and International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO).

Rebecca Falish
Director of Sales - East

Falish literally grew up in the industry. Her introduction to plumbing was at an early age through her grandfather’s shop, Iron River Plumbing & Heating. In 2000, she became the first woman to take on the role of regional sales manager at Bemis. 

In 2005, Falish joined InSinkErator as the first woman regional sales manager. In 2013, she was promoted as the company’s director of Sales – East. She has been instrumental in developing the company’s marketing initiatives for showrooms and industry councils, in addition to providing product design directives based on showroom feedback. Falish is a leading team member, organizing and implementing showroom programs for InSinkErator and managing buying group responsibilities. 

Falish has served on the board of the Wholesalers Association of the Northeast (WANE); the first woman to become a board member in the association. She has also served on the board of the Midwest Distributors Association (MWDA) and is a founding member of the American Supply Association’s (ASA) Women in Industry division. She is currently an executive committee member of the division.

Lacie Lutz
C&C Industries
Director of Marketing & Communications

Lutz, previously known as “The Boss’ Daughter,” has paved her way through the industry, earning herself a new title: director of Marketing. Having grown up in a small town in East Texas, Lutz credits her hometown with giving her a sense of humbleness that she has used to her advantage. She learned early on that success should be obtained through what she calls good, old-fashioned ideals of hard work, dedication and perseverance. 

In 1999, her father and his partner started C&C Industries where Lutz was hired into an entry-level position. Over the course of 13 years, she was promoted to multiple roles that touched virtually every aspect of the business. In 2013, the family business was acquired, becoming part of a group of companies whose reputations preceded them: Newdell, Smith Valve, Diamond Gear and Quantum Supply. Lutz’s talent was recognized and she was asked to lead the marketing, public relations and communications functions for the new group of companies.

Dottie Ramsey
Modern Supply
President & Chief Operating Officer

In 1965, Ramsey started her career at Modern Supply as a pricing clerk. She was promoted to office manager, showroom manager, building department manager, administrative vice president, executive vice president, and finally to her current role as president and chief operating officer.
In 1978, the founder of Modern Supply helped Ramsey get involved with Southwestern Wholesale Association’s (SWA) Young Executive Committee, becoming the first woman to join. In 1981, she was named chairman of the SWA Young Executive Committee. From 1983 to 1986, she was the first woman to serve on SWA’s Board of Directors. In 1992, Ramsey was named the first woman president of SWA.  

Ramsey has also been very involved with the American Supply Association (ASA). From 1989 to 1993, she served on ASA’s Board of Directors for the Educational Foundation, becoming president of the foundation in 1993. In 2004, she was elected as president of ASA, gaining the opportunity to travel and met with wholesalers and vendors who became lifelong friends and business partners.

With all of her contributions to the industry, Ramsey has not considered her job to be work. Because for her, working hard for something you love is passion.

Siân Smith
Noble Corporation
Senior Director of Procurement & Pricing

Smith has dedicated much of her professional and personal life to the pursuit of high performance. A lifelong athlete, she was a national level diver, once held a swimming world record, recently ran her first marathon, and is currently training for her first Olympic distance triathlon. 

She applies the values of hard work and dedication learned through sport to her career. From 1999 to 2013, she held various roles at Emco Corporation, including manager of National Pricing, director of Information Systems and vice president of Procurement. In 2013, Smith joined Noble Corporation as senior director, responsible for Procurement, Purchasing, Pricing and IT.

Smith holds a Bachelor of Arts from Western University, and a MBA from Wilfrid Laurier University. She joined the Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating (CIPH) National Board of Directors in 2009, and received the industry's Young Executive Award in 2014. In keeping with her driven nature, she took on the role of CIPH chairman in 2015, and is the organization’s youngest and first woman leader.

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