Lead by example.
Fight the unconscious bias.
Those were among the calls to action emphasized during a three-day virtual event designed to celebrate Top Women in Hardware & Building Supply and explore ways to advance the careers of all women.
And these ideas continue to inspire men and women to build a more diverse industry.
Leaders from manufacturers, retailers, independents, distributors, lumberyards and hardware stores all play a role in the effort. Sarah Alter, the CEO of the Network for Executive Women set the tone for this editorial project, when she issued a call to arms in the crusade for diversity by pointing to statistics (a McKinsey & Co. study) showing that gains of women toward equity progress have been taken measurable steps backward during the pandemic. “Now more than ever, we need to do all that we can to celebrate and cherish and support female leaders in any of the industries,” she said.
HBSDealer’s role is to continue to find the stories and the statistics that could help inspire more women to enter the field, and to encourage those in the field to advance their careers.
We truly believe that our Top Women in Hardware & Building Supply program serves this industry and brings people and companies together in a positive way,” said Amy Grant, who spearheads the program. “Diversity is more than just an ideal. It’s good for business and it’s good for the industry.”
of managers, senior managers and executives at the retail and consumer goods companies surveyed are women of color.
source: Network of Executive Women
Women around the world lost their jobs at a higher rate than men
source: World Economic Forum
source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, current population survey (2018)
General Construction statistics
Total workers in construction:
Chief Marketing Officer,
Global Tools and Storage
Stanley Black & Decker
When I accepted the job, the leadership team in Global Tools and Storage only had one female leader. Today, this leadership team is 60 percent diverse, which is a huge difference in three years".
From cosmetics to power tools
Growing up in Mexico, Tabata Gomez dreamed of helping people by becoming Secretary General of the United Nations. Though life has taken her in different direction, she is using her role as Chief Marketing Officer, Global Tools and Storage at Stanley Black & Decker to help bring diversity and gender equality to the hardware industry.
After spending almost 14 years marketing cosmetics and other products with Procter & Gamble and then Coty, Inc., she came to Stanley Black & Decker in 2017, immediately piloting a successful re-launch of the Craftsman brand. In this interview with HBSDealer, Gomez shares some of the challenges she has faced, her pride in Stanley Black & Decker’s growing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and the lessons she’d like to pass on to her son about achieving success in the workplace.
Read complete interview
On the transition from cosmetics to power tools:
From a marketing standpoint, it’s exactly the same approach. I focus on the consumer or end user and providing experiences that delight them. It’s about addressing their needs and being tactical. I didn’t know a lot about tools prior to joining the company, but through my years here, I’ve learned a lot. Just last weekend, my boyfriend and I were doing some work in the house, and there I was, cutting two by fours and doing plumbing and dry wall, putting my new skills to work. It’s just something I had never had a chance to explore in the past.
On re-launching the Craftsman brand, her first task at Stanley Black & Decker:
That was probably one of the biggest challenges in my career, but also one of my biggest accomplishments. What I did was make sure everyone understood the vision for what Craftsman was going to be, which made it a lot easier for them to rally around and be able to move their pieces of the project forward.
My proudest accomplishment on Craftsman was really making the brand relevant again, as well as and what we made the brand stand for. The tagline, “We build pride,” has helped us to shape this amazing brand that has grown to soon become a one-billion-dollar brand.
On the changing mindset at Stanley Black & Decker:
In my earlier days at the company, we were getting ready to do a major trade show and I got a call asking for my shirt size so they could give me a shirt for the show. I said, “I appreciate the effort, but I will be wearing a black dress that looks very presentable for a woman executive and a pin with the Stanley Black & Decker logo. I won’t be wearing a men’s shirt and khakis going forward because I don’t think that’s inclusive of how I feel comfortable as a woman dressing for these types of events.” Really, all I did was challenge the status quo and that unconscious bias, and it opened peoples’ minds.
Gina Schaefer makes leadership cool
A recent “Ace Heartware Stories” video presents Gina Schaefer in her element. In the video, she talks about her team, her community, and her 13-store chain’s policy of giving people second chances. The video is a moving tribute to the power of independent businesses to change communities for the better, and it has more than 112,000 views on Youtube.
Schaefer, a member of the 2020 class of HBSDealer’s Top Women in Hardware & Building Supply and owner of A Few Cool Hardware Stores, shared more inspirational thoughts on her approach to the hardware business during a recent leadership talk with fellow Ace dealers.
Read complete interview
A Few Cool Hardware Stores
Something like 70% of businesses are never started because of fear. If hardware is someone’s passion, then do it. Whether you’re a man or a woman".
Her college days and early community service:
“Once a month the [Wittenberg University] football coach would invite me into the science auditorium to give a presentation to the football team about why they have to do their community service. Most of the guys didn’t care. They were really nice guys, but they wanted to be on the field. And here I was, 5-foot-2, in this huge auditorium with enormous men, and I’m telling them why they need to come with me to a soup kitchen or to an elementary school.
“Some of them who I’m still friends with laugh about those memories of me being so bossy. And I also have a lot of fond memories of seeing them grow into their skills as role models.”
Her first job: “Waiting tables, I think, teaches you a lot about retail. It’s about taking care of customers and taking care of teammates.”
Her least favorite job: “It was the job right before I opened Logan Hardware in 1998, in the tech industry. The CEO had $5 million from investors, all from New Zealand. I had to get in touch with all of these absolutely wonderful Kiwis and explain to them that all of their money was gone. That was my least favorite job.”
The origin of Logan Hardware:
“I came home one day, I had a really bad commute. I told my husband: ‘I’m not going to drive any more. I’m not going to work for that man anymore.’ (It could have been a woman, but it just happened to a man). And [my husband] said, ‘What are you going to do?’ I said, ‘I’m going to open a hardware store.’ And the rest is history.”
Advice to those considering a career in hardware:
“The first thing I would say is there’s no reason to think it’s any different than going into any other career, and if you’re excited about it, then do it. Something like 70% of businesses are never started because of fear. If hardware is someone’s passion, then do it. Whether you’re a man or a woman.”
On giving people second chances:
“In 2003, an employee, Mark, came to me from a drug clinic down the street, and he said, ‘I’ve been clean for six months, I want a job.’ Eighteen years later, Mark is the man who runs inventory for our entire company. He invited someone, who invited someone, who invited someone, and the next thing I knew, we sort of organically built this culture of ‘recovery hardware.’
“Getting a job right out of recovery is a really big deal. And we sort of by accident became that job for this community.”
Thoughts on her legacy.
“I want to be known for being brave, pioneering the revitalization of Logan Circle. And I want to be known for giving a bunch of really cool people jobs, when maybe nobody else wanted to.”
The role of women in hardware and building supply business:
“One of the things I’m most proud of is helping to start the women in retail group at Ace, because I think that there was a disconnect between how many of us are actively involved in the business. Whether we’re owners, business partners HR managers, marketing managers or whatever. And I wanted the women on my team to know that that group existed, and that they were supported in that way. “I think I’ve had an opportunity in my role to do some really cool things that will help, hopefully, lift up other women in the industry and promote a more diverse population. The hardware world is not a very diverse world, and I really want that to be a bigger part of the future of the business. I think it has to be for us to survive.”
Leading by example, Margi Vagell
The home improvement industry continues to increase its number of women in leadership positions, and one such leader sat down with HBSDealer to discuss her experience within the business and how culture, diversity and inclusion are business imperatives at Lowe’s.
Margi Vagell is senior vice president, merchandising, home décor, with Lowe’s Companies, Inc. Vagell discussed her own career development in the hardware and building supply industry, and she shared insight into how she reads a room.
Read complete interview
Senior Vice President, Merchandising, Home Décor
Lowe’s Companies, Inc.
You can’t fixate on the job you want. Instead, I think you should focus on excelling at the job you have".
Culture, diversity and inclusion
“Discussing culture, diversity and inclusion (CD&I) isn’t an exception but rather a constant, in a positive, productive way,” Vagell said of the Mooresville, N.C.-based company, adding that the conversation begins with the company’s commitment to recruiting diverse talent and continues with its pledge to keep CD&I part of every business strategy on retaining diverse leaders.
“Bringing different viewpoints to the table – embracing real diversity of thought – gives any company an advantage when tackling projects and challenges,” Vagell said. “With our President and CEO, Marvin Ellison, Lowe’s leadership is living and breathing culture, inclusion and diversity as a pivotal mindset for good business. Marvin understands the importance of diversity of experience and diversity of expertise.”
Growing in a career:
As one of the industry’s Top Women in Hardware & Building Supply, Vagell’s own career, which includes nearly 11 years at Lowe’s, has encompassed what she described as five lateral moves before a promotion to the vice president level. At each position, she gained experience that prepared her for greater responsibility. She shared her approach to growing in a career.
“You can’t fixate on the job you want,” she said. “Instead, I think you should focus on excelling at the job you have. Early on, my mentors encouraged me to dive into each new role with that perspective, and as a result, I’m a better, more productive leader. Then when I’ve taken on new roles, I went in with a fresh hunger to work hard and excel.”
As mom of two school-age children, Vagell dismisses a global definition of work/life balance. “The word ‘balance’ is subjective, and gender equality has to go beyond a paycheck,” Vagell said. “We need to hold associates to the same standard of performance while also providing associates the tools to succeed at both work and home life.”
Vagell tries to keep a pulse on how she feels she’s contributing. “If I feel good about how I’m contributing at work and my family is thriving, then the effect is cyclical. I feel better about coming to work every day, and my husband and children feel positive about our daily lives. But it’s impossible to keep a constant balance – the idea that work and home life are existing at exactly the same levels of harmony. Life doesn’t work that way.”
Vagell’s husband is a stay-at-home Dad who oversees the remote learning a global pandemic has required. They have an autistic child who has helped them understand how pivoting from the expected can deliver levels of pride, joy and love neither may have ever envisioned otherwise.
“When my children need me, I am confident enough in how I deliver at work that I can shift my focus to where it’s needed most. And yes, we all have moments when both parts of life – work and family – are in a tug of war. So much comes down to communication and giving grace.”
Leadership philosophy :
Vagell’s leadership philosophy is to look outward and try to understand what motivates each team member. “My responsibility is to bring out the best in my team, which takes earning trust and maintaining communication. I’m not perfect at it, but I’m always trying.”
She talked about having the right mindset before even entering a room full of colleagues – which means not feeling a need to prove something. “It's less about proving yourself and more about understanding who is in the room. And it's less about you showing them what drives you. It's about you figuring out what drives them. And so, you have to be really unselfish in order to figure out how best to work with a team and to achieve your team goals.”
Vagell shared her pride in Lowe’s accomplishments through the pandemic, an environment few could have ever predicted. “Establishing a leadership foundation focused on how culture, diversity and inclusion have to be embedded in the business makes it easier as a company to pivot when that’s needed. We feel privileged to be able to stay open and serve customers who need the products and services we offer, and I know every day we’re making decisions backed by the right actions.”
On the company’s commitment to diversity in the workplace:
When I accepted the job, the leadership team in Global Tools and Storage only had one female leader. Today, this leadership team is 60 percent diverse, which is a huge difference in three years. At Stanley Black & Decker, we have a saying that “success for women means success for everyone,” and our company truly embodies that statement by actively working on gender parity strategies that we have put in place, including developing female mentorship programs, sponsorship opportunities, mitigating bias trainings, inclusion and flexibility, and several female leadership initiatives.
The best thing is that in 2019, our CEO Jim Loree signed on to Paradigm for Parity, a coalition that commits to closing the gender gap in corporate leadership by 2030. It’s a big commitment, but we do have actions that are happening all across the company to enable that. One quote that our CEO says a lot is, “Those who make the world need the creativity of an inclusive and collaborative team, because when you shut down the voice of one, you lose the power of all.” That always gives me goosebumps when I hear it.
On what she has learned from six-year-old son Alexander, and what she hopes to teach him:
About a month ago, he told me that at school they were working on stereotypes. When I probed and asked him, “What is a stereotype?” he gave me the example of, girls like pink, and boys like blue, saying, “Girls and boys can like any color.” At this point, it is about helping him keep that open mindset, but I do hope as he grows older and understands more about the world, I can be a role model for him and continue to demonstrate that anybody can achieve success in the workplace – even a Mexican woman working in Corporate America in the tools industry.
Make sure to attend our 2021 Top Women in Hardware & Building Supply Awards event
November 10-11 | Fairmont Chicago
2021 Top Women in Hardware & Building Supply Awards event
November 10-11 | Fairmont Chicago
Register now to attend the 2021 Top Women in Hardware & Building Supply Awards event
November 10-11 | Fairmont Chicago