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SPRING 2019

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Distributor's Link Magazine Spring 2019 / Vol 42 No2

WIFI is a not-for-profit

WIFI is a not-for-profit association made up of women in manufacturing, distribution and secondary processing within the fastener industry. For ten years, WIFI has been honoring its mission to advance women in the fastener industry. What began as a networking and educating association in 2009 has grown into an industry wide phenomenon. THE BEGINNINGS OF WIFI by Mary ‘Lou’ Aderman With the economy taking a big hit in 2008/09 I could feel the lesson of many years in the fastener business. Downturn… cut spending, keep connections up with your most advantageous customer, research new potential customers and look for new resources of income. This was always my procedure in the slow market. Yet this was a time I had never seen - the automobile market was in danger of becoming non-existent and prospects were pretty low on every front. It was a time when consulting, coaching and a search for something to connect my base experience to advantage my business was a priority. What I had to do had to be done quickly. The one advantage of nimbleness was what I could depend upon as I was a one woman show and no ship to turn. The Columbus trade show was coming up. My history over a life time had found me being an unintentional female influencer for change. One thing missing in the industry as far as I was concerned was a space for women to connect and find their voice. So make the space and see what can become real. Trade show event? Where would I find support for a women’s event? Of course, it was other women! I got in touch with Susan Hurley at Bannister, who was the director of the Columbus Show. She agreed to put a woman’s meeting on the list of events with me leading. Her support gave me confidence and ultimately has made a difference for women. A second connection I made was with the leader of Stelfast, Simmi Sakhuja. She was very interested in what the event could bring to women and to meet with some clients for the purpose of attending the women’s event. The support was uplifting to me. So, the first meeting of Women In The Fastener Industry (eventually WIFI) took place at a poorly attended Columbus trade show. We had 50 seats set out. 5 women leaders showed up at the meeting. The conversation was very good though, discussing an array of issues that women face in the Fastener Industry. Issues of opportunity, promotion, education and perception of women in a business having to do with steel products were discussed. The party favors of chocolate colored cups with pink WIFI letters made a welcomed debut which were used several more times for promotion. That very night I was asked by Tracey Lumia of Distributor’s Link Magazine to have dinner with her. I had no previous connections with Tracey before Columbus. I was totally in awe as I didn’t think I was important enough. She was the third critical connection that gave impetus to WIFI.

After the trade show I researched women business owners of fastener companies and found Pam Berry at Advanced Components. I managed to convince her that an event for women at the Vegas Show would provide a venue for discovery. That first year in Vegas, we had nearly one hundred people in attendance. The connections we each made have influenced our success. Our next step was an advisory board which eventually become a notfor-profit. Susan Hurley, Simmi Sakuja, Tracey Lumia and the companies representing the initial board supported the future of WIFI; all members since have been an influence for our industry. All work has been done by women who took nothing for their time. Ten years later the success of Women in the Fastener Industry has been women leaders who care for the industry. The influence gained has been inclusion of women on industry boards, opportunity for scholarship education, new connections for all those invested and confidence for women in an industry that have benefited by greater participation. With a heart full of pride I thank the second generation of women led by Rosa Hearn who have taken the reins of WIFI to continue the mission.

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