From the Editor: The Women Who Make In-plants Thrive
March is Women’s History Month, a time to focus on the often-overlooked contributions women have made to this country’s history. This got me pondering the role women have played in the printing industry, and I thought I’d make an observation that I’ve mostly kept to myself all these years: the in-plant industry employs a lot more women as managers and directors than the commercial printing industry.
I may be going out on a limb here, since I don’t have solid data to back this up, but after covering this industry for about 30 years now, I’ve got a pretty good feel for it. At the in-plant conferences I’ve attended, women always make up a high percentage of the attendees. (I checked an attendee list from a past In-plant Printing and Mailing Association conference, and women accounted for a solid 25% of participants. A past Association of College and University Printers conference roster showed 35% of attendees were women.)
While we don’t break down the magazine’s circulation list by gender, in our recent salary survey 20% of the responding managers and directors were women. So, while it’s not half, there are certainly a lot of female managers in the in-plant industry.
And why shouldn’t there be? In my experience, women tend to have strong organizational skills, they’re good listeners and communicators, they have a lot of patience, and they’re very empathetic — all traits of good managers. They’re great at cultivating positive team environments and driving employee engagement. They’re known for encouraging employee development and rewarding progress. Certainly during the pandemic, women managers have seemed to excel at checking in with employees about their mental well being and offering assistance.
In my years at the helm of this magazine, I’ve known and written about many women who have shined in their jobs and expanded their in-plants in notable ways. Women have led some of the largest, most productive in-plants in the country, including the Government Publishing Office, overseen for six years by Davita Vance-Cooks. Former California State Printer Celeste Mai Cron was one of the most knowledgeable printers I’ve known. And four current state printers are women: Marci Carr (Pennsylvania), Tammy Golden (Tennessee), Kristen Hampton (Michigan), and Cheryl Buxton (Kansas). Each has modernized her operation in impressive ways.
Some of the country’s largest university in-plants are run by women. There’s Katy Folk-Way at the University of Washington; Sherri Isbell at the University of Oklahoma; Donna Horbelt at the University of California - Davis; Lora Connaughton at the University of North Texas; Judy Bankson at Oregon State University. Yale University just hired Lisa Scott as director after many years modernizing Bucknell University’s in-plant.
Other industries also rely on strong female managers to oversee their in-plants. Lisa Stelter of Sanford Health has consolidated several company in-plants and transitioned to inkjet to handle her health system’s printing. Sherri Broderick has similarly brought inkjet to Frisco Independent School District’s in-plant and heavily automated her operation. Catherine Ciardi oversees Excellus BlueCross BlueShield’s award-winning print and mail operation, one of the country’s largest healthcare in-plants.
These are, of course, just a sampling of the inspirational women we have profiled in IPI for their accomplishments. I’ve met and talked with so many others as well who have had great success bringing forth innovative ideas and getting their staffs to buy into changes. So as we celebrate Women’s History Month, I want to salute all the women who manage in-plants for the strong role they play in keeping their printing operations healthy and preparing them for the future.
Related story: Honoring the Women of the In-plant Industry
Bob has served as editor of In-plant Impressions since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited nearly 170 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, co-sponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.