Women in Printing -- Female Perspectives
by chris bauer
It's no secret that the commercial printing industry has traditionally been a male-dominated field. For generations, printing companies have been handed down from father to son; pressrooms filled with "pressmen." Women running presses were seen as a novelty; a female in the company boardroom was a rarity.
Well, times have changed.
Women are taking a larger role in the graphic arts industry. It is no longer a shock to find a female's name in the top spot of a printing organization (for example, Stephanie Streeter at Banta Corp.). Walk around an industry trade show and you will see women making decisions on capital expenditures. Look inside a graphic arts classroom and you will find faces of both genders.
At the Government Printing Office (GPO), for example, the number of women executives has jumped from a total of 15 in 2003 to 26 in 2004—an increase of 73 percent in a matter of months.
Printing Impressions spoke with several female printing executives to get their take on opportunities for women in the graphic arts industry and to find out how they got their start.
Denise Spalding and Jennifer Eberle, Allegra Print & Imaging-East
Youthful exuberance and a knowledge of printing from part-time work during their college years led Jennifer Eberle and Denise Spalding down the path to purchasing their own company. The duo acquired their Allegra Print & Imaging location in Louisville, KY, 12 years ago, when they were 24 and 29 years old, respectively.
After both women graduated from the University of Louisville, with degrees in business management and marketing, Spalding became general manager of a local multi-location printing operation and Eberle took the role of sales manager. The two soon decided they wanted to own a company for themselves, but the route was not an easy one.
Banks were not eager to lend money to two women in their 20s, so Spalding, now company president, and Eberle, now vice president, had to come up with other ways to finance the purchase—including borrowing money from family members for working capital, depleting savings accounts, taking second mortgages on their homes and received financing from the original owners of the business, who saw potential in these two young women.
"As partners, we paid off our debt in seven years—three years earlier than expected," Spalding proudly remarks. "In fact, the banks that once wouldn't take us seriously are now pursuing us."
From the beginning, being young and female affected Spalding and Eberle's ability to utilize conventional financing, they note. Had it not been for the faith the previous owners had in their ability to turn the business around, they admit Allegra Print & Imaging-East probably wouldn't be in business.
Solid financials with a high profit margin and the company's ability to pay cash for equipment has positioned them to take advantage of new technology, purchase land and build their own facility.
Allegra Print & Imaging has been successful, and Eberle and Spalding see more women following in their paths.
"There seems to be a growing trend of more women coming into the printing industry," Spalding says. "Printing is no longer just putting ink on paper. What once used to be an intense physical job has now evolved into a highly automated process, leaving more room for creative, marketing savvy and visually oriented career women and men."
Many women are working mothers and/or single mothers, who have to balance work and family. This is true for Spalding and Eberle, who both have young children and husbands that are not involved in the business. They have managed to maintain a delicate balance between work and family by keeping the lines of communication open with each other and their staff, making it a priority to offer flexible work schedules to all staff, including their eight female employees.
Michelle Waterhouse, Hopkins Printing
Hopkins Printing was founded more than 25 years ago in Columbus, OH, by Jim and Arnie Hopkins. Today, the company is still run by Jim and Arnie, but also by their daughter Michelle Waterhouse. While Arnie remains the company's top salesperson, Michelle was recently appointed chairman of the board. But the work and title have not always been glamorous.
"The earliest work I remember was collating sheets around the kitchen table," Waterhouse recalls. "When my parents opened a store front, my sister and I would help in different ways, including cleaning the restrooms and front lobby."
The decision to pursue a career in printing was an easy one, Waterhouse admits. She says it is really the only industry she has ever known.
"I have found that I like the people side of printing," she reveals. "I like the challenges and rewards in dealing with the employees, customers and vendors. My strength is working with people, and my job has allowed me to develop it even further. My day-to-day job involves our 107 employees. I enjoy helping them, learning from them and succeeding with them."
Hopkins Printing is a good example of a printer that has no gender barriers. Besides Waterhouse's high-profile position as chairman, the company's controller, bindery supervisor and lead sales representative are all women, not to mention that the mailing, shipping and customer service departments all have female employees in lead roles.
"Don't get me wrong, the majority of our employees are male," Waterhouse continues. "I don't think that it will ever change to be a female-dominated industry. The most significant change is that there are no longer 'male' and 'female' jobs—there are opportunities for both."
Sue Ann Werling, Moore Langen
For Sue Ann Werling, president and CEO of Indianapolis-based Moore Langen, an interest in printing began in high school after taking all of the art and printing courses offered. She then worked her way through Indiana State University, earning a bachelor's degree in graphic arts management.
"I have ink in my blood," Werling admits. "I had wonderful teachers in high school who encouraged me to make graphic arts and printing my career."
Werling feels that the printing industry is very slow to accept women in leadership positions, but that has not discouraged her from pursuing her interests. "Instead, I find ways to succeed where others have failed," she explains.
For example, Moore Langen was on the verge of insolvency and had no special capabilities when Werling and husband Evan acquired it. Rather than declare bankruptcy, the couple put up their personal holdings in order to pull the company out of financial trouble. Despite debts totalling nearly $2 million, the Werlings managed to pay all of the creditors and banks in-full.
Today, Moore Langen is a nationally certified woman-owned business enterprise, and is celebrating its 140th year in business this year. And the financial woes are behind them.
"We did this through innovative technology, by taking on difficult and demanding challenges, and by out-performing our national competitors," Werling proudly states. "Because of this, we earned a top performance rating from each of our Fortune 1000 clients."
Werling has found the way to succeed in any enterprise is to focus on new and emerging technologies. "We really enjoy being a building block that supports the growth of our clients," she says. "Several of our major clients have repeatedly called Moore Langen 'the best kept secret in the printing industry.' "
Ann Rosseel, Reservoir Printing
While some printers report having been born with ink in their veins, Ann Rosseel, owner of Marlborough, MA-based Reservoir Printing, married into the industry.
Her late husband Raymond, who worked for his family's printing business, Washington Press, gave Rosseel her first taste of the graphic arts world. Washington Press, which was based in Worcester, MA, was well known in its day—one of the biggest accounts it had was producing the Boston Red Sox yearbook and other assorted Red Sox printing.
The company saw its demise when the Commonwealth of Massachusetts seized its land and building to prepare for construction of Interstate 190 in central Massachusetts. Raymond went to work for a company in Rhode Island called Federated Litho and was there until his death in 1989. His experiences led Ann into the industry.
"We often called on his customers together or met for lunch or dinner with some of them and I grew to know more and more about printing," says Rosseel. "Some of those same customers are still friends of mine. They were directly responsible for helping me as I prepared to educate my three girls who were 18, 19 and 22 when Raymond died."
Rosseel points out that she always had a love of art and saw printing as a creative process, from beginning to end. This helped her to pursue the business.
"I have faced many challenges in these last 17 years, not the least of which was my husband's death," Rosseel assesses. "We had just set up the idea of having this great little printing company when he was diagnosed with cancer and died just two years later. We had a couple of great customers already committed and I knew I needed to provide support to my three children—so we forged ahead. As the years have gone by, I believe I have won the support of many of my male colleagues as I have tried to do the best I can for my clients, my employees, my family and the industry."
Janet Green, Greens Inc.
Janet Green, CEO of Greens Inc. in Long Beach, CA, is a third-generation printer. Her grand-father started the company in 1908, so she points out that she was born to be a printer. During her teen years, however, Green felt that the theatre stage was her true calling.
"But I would always fill in and work in various departments at my father's printing company," Green reports. "I always thought printing was so uncool, and why couldn't dad own a car dealership instead? After several years of frustration in the theatre and, at the same time, having several nurturing years in printing, I had to admit—ink is in my blood."
One of her early jobs at Greens Inc. was helping out in the payroll department, and Green remembers being amazed at what some of the sales reps were making. "Knowing I'm not the creative type and that I'm much more driven by people and processes, sales was the obvious place to call home for me," Green explains. "And yes, I will selfishly say the attraction to commissioned sales helped with my choice."
Green has the distinction of being the only daughter in the family—with five brothers rounding out the six Green siblings. About 15 years ago Greens Inc. hired a consultant to come into the company and help with direction and growth, she recalls. The consultant's suggestion was unexpected.
"After weeks of analyzing the company he sat my father and my five brothers down for a meeting whereby he quickly recommended that my father resign and have the daughter—me—be the new CEO," Green reveals. "My father's comment was, 'hey, I've got five sons—why can't you pick one of them?' "
The challenges for women in the printing industry have not been totally erased. However, more opportunities are now more readily available for females in this field.
"Great leaders prevail, regardless of sex," Green concludes, "and I have never felt that my contributions or opinions in my business have been lessened because I am a woman."
Rosemary Farley, Farley Printing
Farley Printing is a family owned and operated business located in Wilmington, DE. Established in 1973 by Rosemary and Joseph Farley, the company initially focused on publishing and advertising. With the acquisition of Knebels Press in 1977, a concerted effort was made to energize and develop the commercial printing division, while the publishing and advertising activities were phased out.
Today the company is owned and operated by Rosemary Farley, who serves as chairman. Farley Printing is recognized by the State of Delaware and City of Wilmington as a woman owned business.
Farley Printing is a minority contractor and satisfies purchasing requirements for businesses seeking to work with minority contractors. "There are more women in ownership and management positions today than ever before, and those numbers are increasing," Farley points out. "There are more women in sales, more women print buyers, more women designers. Of course, this is also a reflection of the whole American work force—not specifically the printing industry."
The business philosophy at Farley Printing is a simple and straightforward one, she says. "We need to first take care of our customers, then we need to take care of our employees and then everything else will take care of itself," Farley contends. "This philosophy is not gender driven but sound, good business practice."
Farley encourages women in the printing industry to inquire into ownership or partnership opportunities. This could be a step towards grooming more female executives.
"Small businesses are generally more flexible and creative," she explains. "Ownership by women is a way to make the industry more attractive to other women. Almost 30 percent of our work force comprises women."
Another way to draw women into the industry would be to encourage paper suppliers, vendors and manufacturers to consider tailoring seminars or workshops towards female employees, Farley suggests.
Susan Kinney, The Castle Press
Susan Kinney, president of The Castle Press in Pasadena, CA, got her start as many in the printing industry do—on the ground floor with nowhere to go but up. She took the opportunities that were available to her and has not looked back.
Kinney started out working in the accounting office for a printer in 1972. She recounts that her employer encouraged her to take classes and learn about the business. This would allow Kinney to take on additional responsibilities and move up in the company.
But the road to the executive level is never easy. Kinney reports that the only route to becoming a success in the printing industry is by paying your dues. "By putting in 12-hour days, donating a lot of time to the industry and working twice as hard" is how Kinney has succeeded. Still, being a woman in the graphic arts industry is a challenge.
"It is still a male-dominated industry," Kinney remarks. "Just look around at all the faces at industry events and the officers in associations' volunteer leadership positions.You are seeing more women in sales, but not in productions jobs."
But there are ways to make the printing industry a more female-friendly career path, Kinney notes. Companies that know this are often rewarded with quality employees.
"Realize that most women are also raising a family and might need some flexible hours," Kinney suggests to potential employers. "They maintain a great deal of loyalty to those companies that recognize that."