PHCPPros and Charli Matthews have become fast friends! As founder and CEO of Empowering Pumps & Equipment, Matthews has worked with the pump and equipment industry since 2005. She is a leader in building brands, growing online networks, and helping industrial companies embrace digital media.
This year, Matthews started Empowering Women in Industry as an initiative designed to help women persevere in male-dominated careers. The initiative seeks to connect, educate and cultivate female leaders in industrial markets through its new website, online community, and upcoming inaugural conference and gala. PHCPPros is excited to be a sponsor for the experience that will take place September 26, at the Chicago Athletic Hotel.
In preparation, we have taken the time to spotlight Charli Matthews as our August Woman In PHCP!
PHCPPros: How did you get into the industry?
CM: My first job in the industry was an administrative assistant for Pumps & Systems Magazine. My first task was to help move the team out of Randall-Reilly Publishing into the new building that would become the Tuscaloosa sales office. From there, I focused on creating sales spreadsheets, organizing clients, and learning everything I could about publishing and media. During that time, I had been graduating from the University of Alabama’s Culverhouse School of Business, and a position opened on their sales team for account management. I wrote the owner and asked for the job. I had been working with the clients for about a year and traveling to events excited me. He said, “You sold me - You can sell anything!” I was successful there for eight years because I really enjoyed putting my customers first. I fell in love with the pump industry and never looked back.
PHCPPros: Do you have women in the industry that have mentored you?
CM: At the beginning of my career, I had an editor that walked me around a tradeshow and helped me understand how to work an event, but I would not say she mentored me. I didn’t have any women who mentored me early in my career. I was in a male-dominated industry and most of my mentors were men. I learned to fit in with the guys and received knowledge by observing mostly. I also made a point to attend sales training conferences, read a lot of books, and really listen in meetings. When I started my own company, I read a lot of books! Today, I lean on the ladies on our steering committee for support. But, I am still looking for an official mentor if anyone knows someone who would take me on!
PHCPPros: Do you mentor other women in the industry?
CM: Many. One in particular is a young engineer who I mentor in marketing and entrepreneurship. She formed a startup for self-defense jewelry for women. It has been amazing to watch her brand grow! She is passionate about empowering women and it is contagious.
PHCPPros: What inspired you to start Empowering Women in Industry?
CM: I was working on workforce and career development content for the Hydraulic Institute leading up to their 100th anniversary. Many of the articles I read were about recruiting women into the workforce and keeping them there to help solve the knowledge gap. Understanding that this is a great need in our industry, I pushed on the director to start the Women in the Pump Industry group and add a place for them on the agenda. I received some support, but I knew it needed more dedicated attention. One day, it was mentioned that we needed to start a LinkedIn group for Women in the Pump Industry. That got my wheels turning. I thought, “I want to include more than just the pump industry. I want to be a resource to any women who need support in male-dominated industries.”
A lot of this stems from my own experience. I am not an engineer, operator, welder, construction worker, plumber, etc. But I struggle the same way because I am working in a male-dominated career. To be honest, this was one of the most challenging times in my career. I was learning how to lead when others already called me a leader. I realized I needed some leadership advice. Advice from women who are managing a family, a career, a calling, and the challenges that come along with being a female in a male-dominated space looking to make a difference.
I looked through my LinkedIn connections; all 6,000 of them. There were no women in management I could lean on except for two that they were my clients! I was responsible for leading them. I began my research, and I created a LinkedIn Group. I made the group only women. I wanted to be able to see them. This group went from zero to over 400 in a few months. I only wish I had created this earlier in my career!
PHCPPros: What do you hope women take away from the inaugural Empowering Women in Industry event?
CM: My hope for the conference is that women will take home skills and knowledge that makes them better leaders! I want them to leave with a renewed passion for leadership, a network of women who are willing to support them in their career development, and a year’s worth of inspiration. I want each woman to learn something they can take back to their company that will help them “be the change” and build a more diverse workplace. This will lead to more women being welcomed into their organizations which will ultimately solve the complex problems we face in the future.
My hope for the Awards Gala is that we will join together (men and women) to celebrate the leading ladies in our industry today! I want these ladies to feel like the heroes/celebrities that they are! To me, we are making role models. Role models for me, for you, and for the future workforce!
PHCPPros: Is there anything else related to women in PHCP that you want to add?
CM: This year at ASHRAE I heard Renee Joseph say that you are the ones hidden behind the walls. I have to say, I am glad we have learned to shed some light on this industry and all the great work you do behind those walls to keep us comfortable and healthily. And there are some amazing ladies leading this charge like ones in your April magazine editions spotlighting Women In PHCP!