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Launched in January 2016, Women of ASPE (WOA) became a special interest group of the American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE). The group’s goal was simple: to provide a support system by organizing outreach, networking, mentoring, and social activities, as well as encourage women to exercise their potential as leaders of the industry and Society. Less than 10 percent of ASPE’s membership is comprised of women, and WOA aims to change that.
Today, there are 480 WOA members, and the group is poised for growth. Sixty-six of those members serve as chapter officers on the local level.
What’s interesting about this group is that even though it was developed to engage, retain and advance women in the plumbing design industry, it isn’t an exclusive club. On the contrary, it is open to both women and men, and all are encouraged to participate in leadership development, as well as the educational and networking opportunities.
The group set its goals and hit the ground running in its first year. One of its major accomplishments includes developing ASPE’s first-ever mentoring program, which is available to all members of the organization. “It’s open to anyone, any age, and can be customized for technical, professional, or leadership development,” says Sarah Balz, WOA Chair and member of the Wisconsin Chapter. To date, more than 60 ASPE members serve in the capacity of a mentor or mentee. To find out more about the program, visit www.aspe.org/woa, fill out the form and let the APSE staff match you up.
WOA also held its first Leadership Forum in 2016 at the ASPE Convention and Expo in Phoenix, where members had the opportunity to network, and share experiences and solutions to common problems. But even beyond that, they formed the beginnings of a community and found a support group in each other.
The 36 members that attended the Forum, left the room with a roar in their heart. The speakers included Joe Scott, Candace Barone, Lordis Gonzalez, Nancy Loneli, and Deidre Gilmore. “It was impossible not to leave with a greater understanding and encouragement for who you were as a person and as a professional,” says Carol Johnson, ASPE Board of Directors liaison for WOA and member of the Alabama Chapter.
As part of its 2016 goals, WOA also created a scholarship program to help a deserving member attend an ASPE educational event. The first recipient of the scholarship, and in attendance for the 2017 ASPE Technical Symposium, was Kari Lynn Rosteck, member of the Eastern Michigan Chapter. You can read more about Rosteck’s experience at the Symposium here.
Another major milestone in 2016 was securing a partnership with Delta Faucet, which is now the exclusive sponsor of the group. “We strongly believe in this program and value the leadership and mentoring opportunities it provides,” says Jason Gonzales, Delta’s senior director of commercial sales.
Delta has been the exclusive sponsor of the group and will continue to be so through 2018.
2017 and beyond
With a great first year in the books, WOA took on 2017 with a new set of ambitious goals.
For the first part of the year, the group set out to enhance membership value, which it hoped would result in an increase of women joining ASPE, leading to long-term sustainability for the organization.
The enthusiasm of the group is infectious to ASPE.
ASPE has already seen an increase in participation at the chapter level, as well as in Society Committees. “Positive growth in interest and activity is the first sign of success,” Johnson says. “Our future goals include mentoring and improved programs.”
WOA developed programs and tools to achieve these goals, including putting on local networking events throughout the year. Recently, Theresa Allen from the East Michigan Chapter organized a team building event through a paint outing. The New York chapter holds breakfast meetings for its members that bring in 40 people.
WOA continues to build positive relationships within the plumbing community, developing partnerships with organizations as it relates to professional growth and development of women engineers. For example, the mentoring program WOA recently launched is meant to give members a path for professional growth.
The group also met earlier this year for a 2018-2019 planning retreat where members worked through the day to create a solid plan going forward. Some of the initiatives for 2018 include external women outreach programs; coordination with colleges, universities and tech schools; career fairs and potential scholarships.
Though there wasn’t a forum held during the 2017 Technical Symposium, WOA held an informal gathering and it was wildly attended with 48 people, nearly half of which were men.
The second Leadership Forum will be held during the 2018 ASPE Convention and Expo in Atlanta. It’s an exciting time for the group as it has its sights set out to grow in membership, and expand on opportunities for all.
So far, there are two speakers lined up for the forum: Candace Barone, who is back by popular demand from last year, and Cynthia Wentland. Topics being floated around include: Conscious Capitalism; Bridging Generational Differences; Running The Show, Is it Worth the Money?; Work Life Balance; How Work Will Change in the Next 20-30 Years; Employee Intelligence; and How to View Work Struggles.
Topic ideas are still being considered. So, if you have any, reach out to the Women of ASPE and let them know what is important to you.
To receive additional information on the Women of ASPE or to sign up to be part of the group, please contact Stacey A. Kidd, ASPE’s director of membership & meetings, 847-296-0002 x227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.