8th March 2021, International Women’s Day. A day to celebrate celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women across the globe.

Now an annual celebration which has been running since 1911, the day has a goal to form a platform to help forge positive change for women.

Accelerating such positive momentum, gasworld wanted to speak to some of those women that are fully immersed within the industrial gas industry and find out more about their experiences.

Of course, there are many woman who play key roles within this ever-evolving industry, but with the recent launch of the Ratermann Women’s Roundtable, International Women’s Day seemed like the perfect opportunity to catch-up with some of those involved. 

Brought to life by Marie Ratermann and Mary Carter of Ratermann Manufacturing earlier this year, the meetings act as a women’s networking and professional growth group for gas distributors and association employees.

Members, including representatives from the CGA, WestAir Gases & Equipment, Norco, gasworld and many more, meet on the first Tuesday of every month for one hour to talk about trends, current project and then hear a presentation from a guest speaker.

Given the great opportunity to be involved in the group, gasworld wanted to catch up with some of those involved and talk all things women and industrial gas in recognition of International Women’s Day.

Marie Ratermann, Business Development Director, Ratermann Manufacturing

GW: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us Marie. Can you start by tell us a little bit about your background and how you became involved in the industrial gases industry?

MR: Sure! My father started Ratermann Manufacturing out of the shed at our house when I was about five years old. As a kid, my sisters, brother, and I would help assemble the first product which was the full/empty ring tags. Throughout my time of growing up I would work miscellaneous jobs for the company.

I always said I never wanted to work for the company but after growing up and falling in love with both the people in the industry and Ratermann employees that I’ve known since I was a kid, here I am! I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and to play a part in this industry! 

GW: You’ve really been there since day one then. With that in mind, can you tell us a little bit more about the role you hold today and any previous roles you’ve held within the sector? 

MR: I have had a several jobs at Ratermann manufacturing. My first job on payroll was sweeping the warehouse floor along with a few other “not so fun” jobs - oh the good old days.

I then left for about two years and worked in different industries in the marketing field. I still would attend GAWDA events with my family which ultimately lead me to coming back to Ratermann where I started to run the marketing and events for the past six years. I was recently promoted to Business Development Director which I am pretty excited about!

GW: What has your experience been like as a woman in this industry? What would you say are the main challenges and positives?

MR: Going to trade shows in the beginning was a bit intimidating but I was blown away at how caring and generous everyone was. I love how supportive women in our industry are of one another! My sister and I have recently started a group by Ratermann for women gas distributors, and it has been amazing to see the support from one distributor to the next!

GW: Can you tell us about one woman who has positively impacted you in your career? What lessons did she teach you?

MR: My mom use to sell specialty gas in the Silicon Valley. When I was starting out, she told me, “There are going to be a lot of things you don’t know and that is okay, never be afraid to ask questions or admit that you don’t have the answer. Learn all you can, be yourself, and treat every person with respect.”

GW: And finally, if you could give one piece of advice to a woman starting out in the industrial gases industry, what would it be?

MR: The industrial gas industry is very special in the sense it is very tight knit. I would tell someone to not be afraid to reach out to long-term employees of the gas industry and introduce yourself or take them to lunch to learn from their experiences.

I also would tell them that there is a lot of space available in our industry for new ideas and creative solutions and at the same time, a phone call and face to face interaction is invaluable to the connections you can make in this industry. 

Nicole Kissler, Vice-President of Talent Development, Norco

GW: Thank you for taking time out of your day to talk to use Nicole. Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you become to be involved in the industrial gases industry? 

NK: Norco is a family business, so I have always had oxygen in my blood! I spent several summers working in different administrative roles while I was growing up and attending various industry conferences.

After I graduated from Oregon State University, I worked for Target, running a few of their retail locations in Washington before going to work for Central Welding Supply (CWS), where I worked in a variety of roles. My experience with CWS was incredible. I learned about the industrial business from working in the fill plant, to the front counter, to supportive administrative roles, and outside sales.

I then returned to Norco where I spent time in customer service and working on the Medical side of the business, before moving into Human Resources. 

GW: With a focus on your currently role, can you tell us more about this and what this role entails?

NK: Norco knows our people are the key, I currently work with our Human Resource team, with an emphasis on our team structure and people strategy. However, I’ve served in other roles, leading up to my time with this team. My first official role would be working AR for Central Welding Supply, starting in 2011 and then I have spent time in other positions over the past ten years.

GW: What has your experience been like as a woman in this industry? What would you say are the main challenges and positives?

NK: My experience may be very unique in that I have felt supported by the teams and co-workers I have worked with from the beginning. The main challenge thus far has been balancing family and work and having to establish credibility since I have a different leadership style than others. The positive is working with an incredible team and our customers. I love getting to spend time with our team, who I learn from each day.

GW: Can you tell us about one woman who has positively impacted your career?

NK: I have a personal mentor, Cheryl Larabee, who also serves on Norco’s Board. She has been a wonderful resource, both professionally and personally in helping to navigate my career roadmap and addressing difficult conversations. She has shared several life lessons that I try to put into practice daily. Focus on the issue, not the emotional connection or feelings that it invokes. There have been several other women that I admire and am grateful to have relationships with. 

GW: Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to a woman starting out in the industrial gases industry, what would that be?

NK: Build relationships, whether that be at your location and amongst your peers or in the industry as a whole. It is always nice to feel like you can pick up the phone or send an email to get someone’s thoughts on something or just talk through an issue. 

Tisha Rodgers, Management and Procurement, A-OX Welding Supply Company

GW: Thank you for talking to us today Tisha. Let’s start off by hearing a little bit about your background and how you became to be involved in the industrial gases industry. 

TR: A-OX Welding Supply Company has been a family-owned business since 1944. I joined the Navy out of high school and enjoyed a 20-year career. Afterward, I wanted to live near my family and an opportunity presented itself to work with them. 

GW: Can you tell us a little more about your role at A-OX and what that includes?

TR: My day to day consists of managing the store front, placing vendor orders for all seven locations as needed, procuring operating materials, inventory control, assisting in logistic operations, and anything else that comes my way.

This is my first role in this industry, but I do believe my time in the Navy helped prepare me for this role.

GW: Can you tell us a little bit about your experience as a woman in this industry? What have been the main challenges and positives for you?

TR: I am used to working around and with men. There are challenges that can come with that, but I take them as opportunities to show my skills by managing and problem solving. My biggest challenge was not having any prior industry experience, but I got involved and made it a priority to learn about the industry. I still have a way to go, and I learn something new every day.

GW: Can you tell us about one woman who has positively impacted your career and what lesson she taught you?

TR: My mother, Linda Elliott. She taught me at a young age to work hard every day and that it did not matter who I was working next to as long as I was doing my part. This benefitted me throughout my Naval career and continues to benefit me in this industry as well.

GW: And finally, if you could give one piece of advice to a woman starting out in this industry, what would it be? 

TR: I started off by listening more than talking. I knew that I had a lot to learn. This industry covers so many fascinating areas that there is always something to be learned or an exciting new direction that it can take us. 

Do not get discouraged easily, just keep pushing on. This industry is providing more opportunities to women all the time, and everyone is coming together. In the end, we all have a service to provide and should do it to the best of our ability.

Missy Johnson, Senior Financial Analyst, WestAir Gases & Equipment

GW: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. Could you start off by telling us a little bit about your background and how you became to be involved in the industrial gases industry?

MJ: In high school, I worked part time in the office for a small independent welding supply company. Then throughout college, I filled in across various departments within the company. 14 years later, I am still in the industry working for a larger independent welding supply company.

GW: It sounds like you’ve been involved in the industrial gases industry for a while now. Why don’t you tell us a little bit more about your job role you’re in today? 

MJ: Besides financial reporting, I work on process improvement and pricing.

GW: Who would you say is one woman that has positively impacted your career? What did she teach you?

MJ: A college professor taught me what being resilient means. Everyone faces adversity, but it is your personal choice to positively adapt. 

GW: And lastly, if you could give one piece of advice to a woman starting out in the industrial gases industry, what would it be?

MJ: Avoid being too easily offended and play to your strengths.

Sherri Iskra, Vice-President, Leonard’s Syrups

GW: Sherri, thank you for taking time out of your day to talk to us. In recognition of International Women’s Day, can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you became involved in the industrial gases industry?

SI: Leonard’s Syrups is a family-owned business that my grandfather and father started in 1964, and we are now on our fourth generation! Originally, we manufactured soda pop syrup, and sold CO2 in 20lb cylinders.

Today, we have over 2,000 bulk CO2 customers in Michigan, and over 100 indoor cultivation facilities with large CO2 receivers. Our gas division grows daily, with nitrogen and blend gas sales increasing in both the 20lb and 50lb cylinders.

GW: As Vice-President you must be very busy. Can you tell us a little more about your job role and what it entails?

SI: My role today involves overseeing projects and cash management. A project that I am currently working on with our gas division is tracking all cylinders by serial number, including the lot number of the gas that is inside the cylinder. This will enable us to automatically calculate rent on the cylinders by day or by month, saving us a lot of time.

GW: What has your experience as a woman in this industry been like?

SI: For me, entering the gas industry was not a choice, as our business needed to expand into larger capacity than just 20lb cylinders. My biggest challenge was learning the industry. I had never worked with industrial gases. I found the largest positive to be that everyone was so willing to help and share their knowledge. This industry has so many great organisations and the people are wonderful.

GW: Can you tell us about one woman who has positively impacted your career?

SI: One woman who positively impacted me in my career is our Controller, Lorie Dalley. She is one of the smartest, most professional women I have ever encountered. She has taught me about the financial impact of our decisions, and I try to emulate her when I conduct business.

GW: Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to a woman starting out in the industry, what would it be?

SI: I would join as many gas organisations as possible – learn from the people who have been doing this for a long time. KEEP LEARNING and utilise technology as much as possible.