The tent and event industry is filled with “wise people who have an amazing willingness to share their expertise,” say Elizabeth Wilson, president of All Occasions Event Rental, Cincinnati, Ohio. While the industry remains dominated by men, women-owned businesses and individual women in leadership in their companies are becoming more visible. Women who have taken the lead have learned lessons that women on the way up can put to use.
“Be a sponge,” Wilson says. “Figure out who the industry experts are and listen when they talk. Take every opportunity to learn.… More than likely, someone else has already solved your problem in their own company or project.”
Jennifer Rodriguez, general manager and sales director, Marianne’s Rentals, Oklahoma City, Okla., says that she wishes she would have understood earlier that effective leaders and employees never stop learning. “No matter how long someone has worked for our company, there will always be that ‘ah-ha’ moment,” she says “Embrace the learning. This will keep you hungry for new processes, systems and ideas that you may not have been open to before.”
“I’ve learned that humility goes a long way,” says Liz Davis, vice president of operations, PTG Event Service, Bethpage, N.Y. “People crave a leader but want a voice. I’ve also learned to reflect. That’s probably the most beneficial advice. I’ve found that scheduling time to consider the whys and hows and involve my team in the process is the only way we improve.”
Sarah Crews, director of sales and marketing for Economy Tent International, Miami, Fla., says she is a firm believer in patience. “Be prepared to take many small steps,” she says. “Be respectful. Go the extra mile. And most importantly, protect and build a good name and reputation by doing and exercising your job with passion.”
Finally, Mary Crosslin, co-president/chief operating officer, Alert Management Systems Corp, Colorado Springs, Colo., says that being a women in the tent industry isn’t an obstacle. “I was told by a mentor early in my career to see your gender as an opportunity, not a hindrance,” she says. “Use your unique insights to distinguish yourself from the crowd and to champion new ideas. I think someday gender will be a non-issue but for now, women should see it as our advantage.”