In 2014, an excited group of women met at a gathering during Coverings, which was sponsored by Polycor, to officially launch Women in Stone (WIS). It wasn’t long before the initiative took off. The group has currently extended to 901 signed-up members and it offers a variety of programs to further strengthen women’s roles in the stone industry.
“Women in Stone’s mission is to recruit, retain and advance women in the natural stone industry,” said Sarah B Gregg. Women in Stone administrator. “Our primary areas of focus are education and networking. We provide ways for women to connect and learn from each other, and teach them more about natural stone and its supply chain. By nurturing their passion, understanding and confidence, we are creating the future leaders of our industry.”
Brenda Edwards of Texas Stone Quarries is credited with the inception of the concept of the initiative, and in 2014 a steering committee was assembled. The initial committee included:
- Brie Pfannenbecker, Connecticut Stone
- Jennifer Sayles, TexaStone Quarries
- Kathy Spanier, Coldspring
- Allyson Humphries, Walker Zanger
- Tiffany Aryeh, Amalfi Stone & Masonry Company, Inc.
- Kim Dumais, Miller Druck Specialty Contracting Co.
- Diane Bridges, Pacific Shore Stones
- Kathleen Carle, JC Stone.
Over the past six years, the steering committee evolved with the addition of Marcella Prado of Laticrete and Amie Gonzalez of Informa in 2015. In 2017, Jacqueline Tabbah of International Stoneworks and Katie Hatfield of CDC joined the committee. And most recently, Karen Roe of NM Motif, Katherine Teel of Continental Cut Stone, Susan Van Etten of Murphy Marble and Mariavittoria Grassi of Grassi Pietre Srl were brought on to serve.
“My experience with WIS has been very positive,” said Van Etten. “I really love that I have connected with women from all over the country, and actually, the world since it is such a global economy and in our industry there is stone from all over the world. We offer some type of an event, a speaker or an educational experience and/ or gathering at the stone shows. I always look forward to reconnecting with the tribe and meeting new people too. We’re continuing to look for new opportunities and ways to expand our message and mission.”
The WIS group strives to achieve its mission objectives, which are:
- Increase peer networking opportunities by coordinating venues to connect and learn.
- Develop a system of support and mentorship with other women in the industry.
- Expand on existing Natural Stone Institute educational offerings by developing topics specific to women’s needs.
- Recognizing emerging and experienced women who excel in the industry.
- Create awareness of opportunities and career paths available to women considering careers in the stone industry.
- Work with the Natural Stone Institute Board of Directors and other Natural Stone Institute committees to achieve their goals.
With such an enthusiastic and driven group of women, the organization continues to evolve. In 2016, WIS established five sub-committees, which each have their own chairs and priorities. They include:
- Kathy Spanier 2016-17,
- Katherine Teel 2018-19
- Allyson Humphries 2016,
- Jacqueline Tabbah 2017-18,
- Karen Roe 2019-20
- Brie Pfannenbecker 2016,
- Allyson Humphries 2017,
- Marcella Prado 2018-19
- Special Projects
- Kim Dumais 2016-17,
- Brie Pfannenbecker 2018-19
- Brie Pfannenbecker 2017,
- Amie Gonzalez 2018
The Women in Stone Mentorship program was established in 2015 and has helped lead more than 200 women through a unique learning experience designed to help build confidence and advance their careers. WIS is not limited to only women. There are many established males in the stone industry who are volunteering their time and energy. Participants are paired based on their experience and goals, which are collected through a registration form. They meet for one hour per month throughout the six-month program.
The program is designed with three ways to participate: Mentor, Mentee or Peer-to-Peer. Participants will prioritize four categories to focus on during the program:
- Leadership and career advancement
- Sales, marketing and communications
- Stone industry knowledge
- Technical knowledge
In 2016, WIS organized its first virtual Mentorship Program with 110 participants. In 2017 and 2018, it also had 110 participants. A new category, Peer-to-Peer, was added in 2019, which had a total of 146 participants.
Social media spotlights
With the growing popularity of social media – not only as a way to stay in touch with people, but as a business tool that can be used to market a brand and network, WIS has begun posting weekly member profiles. “Each week on social media, we share the story of a different WIS participant: who she is, how long she has been in the industry and why she loves working with natural stone,” according to the organization.
There is a spotlight interview form on WIS’s website that can be filled out and submitted. Anyone interested in being featured should visit: https://www.naturalstoneinstitute.org/programs/women-in-stone/get-involved/.
In 2018, WIS started holding monthly webinars to explain Women in Stone’s programs and events and to encourage members to get engaged. It reports seeing regular participation of about 10 people per month. WIS also launched its first charitable contribution during TISE 2019 with Dress for Success.
Awards and scholarships
In 2016, WIS gave away its first Pioneer Award. The recipients include:
WIS sponsored its first Empowerment Scholarship in 2016. The recipients include:
Events to-date hosted by Women in Stone
Wine & Stone
In 2015, WIS developed a CEU course titled “Wine & Stone” and created a networking kit to help its members build relationships locally with professionals in the design community and beyond. In 2019, it was moved into the Natural Stone Institute’s CEU program instead of a stand-alone kit.
“Genetically, all chardonnays are the same. Geologically, all marbles are the same. Soil composition and climate affect the way a wine tastes. Mineral composition and formation affect the way a stone looks. Teach your audience WHY with this CEU event by Women in Stone (powered by Natural Stone Institute).” This is the message found about the course on WIS’s website.
For those interested in learning how to host a Wine & Stone event, watch the Natural Stone Institute’s CEU Program Orientation through the Natural Stone University. There you’ll find out how to become a CEU certified speaker. Moreover, there will be additional details specific to hosting a Wine & Stone event, including a shopping list and set-up instructions.