More women than ever now own textile companies, and IFAI’s recent Women in Textiles Summit brought together many of these business leaders to share their unique expertise within a highly specialized industry. This year’s inaugural summit, held March 6–8 in Savannah, Ga., facilitated what IFAI President and CEO Steve Schiffman calls an “investment in the future.”
Year one of the summit brought together 60 women who shared their business experiences and paths to success. Linden Wicklund, IFAI director of events and member programs, says, “IFAI has long known there are a great many strong female leaders in the industrial textile industry, but they often are not the ones to come forward and participate in the association activities that push the industry forward.”
Numerous industry leaders shared their wisdom and insights, including Amy Bircher, president and founder of MMI Textiles, Westlake, Ohio; Patti Bates, general manager of the Protective Market, Glen Raven Technical Fabrics, Glen Raven, N.C.; Denise Offray, president and CEO, OTEX Specialty Narrow Fabrics, Bernardsville, N.J.; and Kathie Leonard, president and CEO, Auburn Manufacturing, Mechanic Falls, Maine. Other industry experts included Sara Beatty,
president, White Haven Trade, Charlotte, N.C.; Jane Johnson, Government Affairs Manager, UNIFI Inc., Greensboro, N.C.; Wendy McBay, vice president marketing, Tensar International Corp., Alpharetta, Ga.; and Robin Ritz, creative visionary, InCord, Colchester, Conn.
The Summit’s interactive sessions included roundtable discussions featuring workplace challenges and trends such as modern versus traditional roles, managing career ups and downs, and self-care. Every 15 minutes attendees switched tables to discuss a new topic. Women from multiple generations described their perspectives and noted shifts in workplace culture.
Many attendees commented that the energy at the summit was contagious. Attendees said they were recharged and excited to go back to their offices and “do more” in the textile industry. IFAI is now starting to plan the 2020 Women in Textiles Summit.