AWMI began with the vision of Heidi Doran, AWMI’s founder. Ms. Doran pursued the creation of an organization that would offer meetings and forums that would promote and develop the educational backgrounds and professionalism of women in the metal industries. Additionally, it would provide a networking system for its members to meet other purchasing, sales and management women to enhance their careers and career opportunities.
On March 1, 1981, she and the six other original members founded an organization and named it Association of Women in the Metal Industries. By having "Metal" singular and "Industries" plural, the organization would encompass women from all phases of the industry. Assistance from legal counsel ensured compliance with California state laws. On June 3, 1981, the organization was incorporated in the State of California. July was the first official membership meeting and these seven women, now the Board of Directorsled by Betty Pearson as President (1982-1984), pursued membership.
By April of 1982, AWMI felt strong enough to present itself to the entire industry and dispel the idea of “yet another women's group.” They sought a speaker who would command a large audience and someone who supported AWMI’s concept and ideas. Mr. F. Kenneth Iverson, President and CEO of Nucor Corporation, was invited to speak at that first Industry Dinner. The meeting was very successful and established AWMI as an association that would provide high quality, interesting programs to our membership.
Word spread to Southern California and that same year the Los Angeles Chapter was formed. As members spoke with customers and suppliers across the United States, the desire to form chapters spread quickly. Heidi and Betty visited some of the interested areas and in 1983, the Chicago, Houstonand New York Chapters were born.
As the Association grew, it became apparent that the National Board of Directors would have to be separate from the founding chapter. This was accomplished on April 24, 1984, when Brenda West (1984-1986) accepted the responsibility of National President.
In 1985, the five existing chapters' boards of directors recognized that they needed to network in person to meet the challenges encountered with the normal growing pains of a national association. This led to the first National Board Conference held in Oakland, California. At that first conference, thirty-five board members representing all five chapters worked on the first draft of AWMI’s Bylaws, discussed the structure and function of the National Board, and charted a plan for membership development.
The following year, 1986, the boards met in Chicago to ratify the AWMI Bylaws and create the Policy and Guideline (P&G) Manual. The leadership voted on and accepted a new membership category---Sustaining Associate. This membership category encompassed those women not eligible under Regular membership requirements and allowed interested men the opportunity to participate in AWMI's structured programs. In addition, the boards initiated a commemorative item program, approved a calendar-year dues structure, and began to discuss the relocation of the National Headquarters. Members from the Los Angeles Chapter agreed to assume the National leadership, and Marge Corwin (1986-1990) was appointed National President.
By the end of 1987, six more chapters were started in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Dallas/Ft. Worthand Connecticut. Serving on the National Board of Directors were women from the Los Angeles, New Yorkand Oakland Chapters. That year, the annual National Board Conference was held in Los Angeles. Collection of membership renewal dues began on a national level.
In 1988, Houston hosted the National Conference. The Association implemented a dues split between National and the Chapters; the Regions were proposed; discussion began on an All-Member Conference; and Board position networking was held for the first time. That year, three new chapters opened: Philadelphia, South Florida and Atlanta.
During 1989, members received the first AWMI Membership Directory, National fundraising efforts began and Regions were approved. The first five Regional Directors were Susan Ferns, Pat Gardner, Mary Henderson, Mary LaGuardia and Olga McDermott. Barbara Lewis replaced Pat Gardner shortly after the October Conference because of a job transfer. Wisconsin hosted the 1989 National Conference and was the first chapter to incorporate an optional mill tour into the conference format. At the conference, AWMI inaugurated a Continuous Membership Service Award Program and held Regional networking sessions. Detroit, Boston, and the Carolinas joined the AWMI Chapter ranks in 1989; AWMI now had a total of seventeen Chapters. Maggie Galvin, National Expansion Chair, played a key role in expansion activities and successes during AWMI's first decade.
In 1990, Pat McCracken (1990-1993) was elected National President. That year, the National Headquarters moved to a different location in Southern California and AWMI hired a part-time office administrator. The Association purchased the first items for its National Video/Education Library. St. Louis and Portland became part of the organizationand 105 Board Members gathered in “Steel Town” Pittsburgh for theNational Board Conference. At the 1990 Conference, the original Oakland Chapter officially changed its name to San Francisco Bay Area Chapter, it was voted to have the President of each Chapter be the official Chapter delegate to the National Board. A Chapter-participant panel discussed "Fundraising."
The Second Decade
AWMI commemorated having completed its first decade by returning to its roots - Oakland, California - for Conference in 1991. History was re-lived when Mr. F. Kenneth Iverson, Chairman and CEO of Nucor Corporation, addressed the first-ever National Industry Dinner held in conjunction with the ten-year National Conference. Mr. Iverson paid tribute to the founders of AWMI and acknowledged the 1,032-person AWMI Membership as a sign of the growth and maturity of the metal industries. Joining him as keynote speaker before approximately 300 AWMI members and guests was Cecilia Danieli, President of Danieli & Co., a worldwide equipment designer and manufacturer of steel mill equipment.
AWMI celebrated its tenth birthday recognizing the nine members who qualified for 10-Year Continuous Service Awards and by selling a number of First Decade Commemorative Items. Special standardized plaques were added as a choice to the previously approved logo pin for continuous service recognition. Plaque standardization was approved for all Special Recognition/Accomplishment plaques given in the future on both Chapter and National levels. Regular Membership qualification was broadened to include processors, finishers, and freight companies and warehouses whose primary customer base engagedin at least 50% metal commodities. Baltimore opened as AWMI's 20th Chapter.
By the 1992 Conference in New York, AWMI Regions had been firmly established. Regional boundaries were realigned to create four regions instead of five, and four Regional Boards were in place. National disbursed funds into the Regional treasuries. For the first time,both Regional Meetings and an open forum were a part of the conference agenda. "Quality Educational Meetings for Members" was the Chapter-participant panel topic. National study committees were formed in 1992 to review nominating procedures and prerequisite qualification requirements for the National Board. Birmingham became AWMI’s 21st Chapter.
Jean Schultz (1993-1994) was elected National President in 1993along with a truly "National" Board of elected officers and Directors hailing from seven different Chapters. This created new logistical challenges. Since the majority of the National Board members were now from states other than California, the National Headquarters was moved to a smaller office in Southern California with no office administrator and teleconference National Board Meetings ensued. The Atlanta Chapter hosted the 1993 Conference. Membership was the 1993 Conference focus and the newly developed "Get Acquainted with AWMI" program was introduced as a powerful membership tool. Proposals and a motivational speaker were new conference elements in 1993. Seattle was welcomed as AWMI's 22nd Chapter.
Year after year, step by step, AWMI and its members were gaining industry recognition and acceptance, especially as women's careers in the metal industries were maturing and expanding. In 1993 and 1994, Association leaders confronted the necessity to expand and intensify AWMI's service to its members. AWMI was determined to more fully implement its commitment to increase the stature, professionalismand success of its members in the metal industries now and into the 21st Century.
In the fall of 1994, the Western Region hosted the National Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. This was the first time the Association held a conference in a city where we did not have a local chapter. The theme was “Back to Basics”and emphasized AWMI’s purpose, structure and service to members. At the 1994 Conference, the chapters voted to accept the financial responsibility for their chapter stationery and printing expenses, which previously had been provided from the National budget. This made funds available in the National budget for AWMI to hire Clarion Management Resources, a professional association management firm, to provide administrative and clerical assistance for the National leadership level of AWMI in implementing programs and services for members. Regular Membership qualifications were expanded in 1994 to include women employed by publication companies, which are a minimum of 50% metals-related, and membership surpassed 1,300. A calendar fiscal year was adopted for Chapters, Regions, and National, including January through December terms of office at all levels. Updating Association National Bylaws, including the integration of Regions, was a major project in 1994, leading to ratification of the new National Bylaws in 1995.
In 1995, under the leadership of Susan Ferns (1995-1996), newly elected National President, the National Headquarters was moved to Alexandria, VA, where the management firm was located. With a management firm in place to handle the minutia of details in running a large association, AWMI leadership was able to fine-tune both the nationwide structure and the flow of communication within the organization. A goal was set to increase the Association membership to 1,500 in 1995 and to 2,000 in two years. All board members were challenged to find the vision for tomorrow, just as the founders did in 1981.
1995 was a transition year for AWMI's National leadership to learn how to most effectively utilize the services of the professional association management firm, and how to work in tandem with them for the benefit of the entire Association. The Minnesota Chapter hosted the fall Conference and evidence of the benefits of the association management firm was apparent. A discouraging note that year was the closing of the South Florida Chapter. There simply were not enough interested parties in the area to keep it going.
For AWMI to accomplish its broad mission and responsibilities to its members, AWMI leaders from all levels - Chapter, Regional, and National - must work together as a team and focus on member programs and services. An ongoing challenge for AWMI has been to increase its professionalism to gain more industry recognition and support.
In 1996, AWMI's 15th year, AWMI planned its first All-Member Conference in an effort to expand AWMI's service to its membersas well as its visibility within the metal industries. AWMI benefited and individual growth resulted as all members of the leadership team worked in unison for almost two years to prepare for the 1996 All-Member Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. Additionally, the American Metal Market presented its first-ever supplement on an association.
The 27-page supplement, which came out during the All-Member Conference, was informative and enlightening. It provided much-needed national recognition and publicity for AWMI. Nineteen ninety-six also saw record membership growth. The goal of 1,705 members was surpassed with a phenomenal growth rate. That year, retirees from our industries were voted in as a new membership category. Two chapters opened in 1996 under the direction of Patti Moore, National Membership Chair,and Sandi Jagodzinski, Expansion Chair: the 22nd in Rockford, Illinois, in April and the 23rd in Toronto, Canada, in November. Now that AWMI had a Chapter in Canada, from that point on, we became known as an International organization.
Jody Pitts (1997-1998) was elected International President for the two-year term beginning January 1, 1997. Nineteen ninety-seven was a year of changes and growth within AWMI. Great strides were made towards reaching our goals of becoming self-funded and achieving 100% company support of members. The first two National education programs were held at mills in the Northeast and Central Regions. The programs were day-long tours/application training seminars and were rated highly successful by participants. A proposal to add a fifth region and re-align the Central and Northeast Regions was approved at the April International Board of Directors Meeting. Nineteen ninety-seven also saw the ratification of new Chapter Bylaws and a change in the membership eligibility policy to include consultant services that have a client base of at least 50% metal-related industries.
The October 1997 Board conference was hosted by the Southern Region and was held in Houston, Texas. The focus of the conference was on education with four speakers interspersed throughout the program to provide inspiration and education for the attendees. The Second All-Member Conference "Metals into the Millennium" was held in Chicago in November of 1998. A tremendous variety of exciting speakers were presented. Among the speakers was Cecilia Danieli who addressed the 10th Anniversary Dinner in California. Seminars and training were a highlight of this exciting conference.
1999 brought the election of Sandi Jagodzinski (1999-2000) to International President. The fall Conference was held in Portland in November. The theme of the Conference was “New Directions: Metals in the 21st Century.” It was a resounding success with over 150 attendees. Columbus opened as AWMI’s 25th Chapter.
Planning for the New Millennium
In 2000, a strategic planning committee was formed to create a bold, new vision for AWMI. The Strategic Plan was unveiled at the 2001 Leadership Conference in March by new President Sue Utton (2001-2002) at the Renaissance Hotel in Cleveland. Our mission was clearly defined as AWMI is an international professional organization dedicated to promoting and supporting women in the metal industries. Four “Cornerstone” goals were identified in support of our mission: Grow Educate, Network and Mentor. The Chapters were charged with developing a Chapter strategic plan to support the International Board Strategic Plan. The structure is now in place to focus AWMI efforts at all levels of the organization. Also in 2000, the Connecticut Chapter and the Boston Chapter merged to create a stronger, unified chapter – the New England Chapter.
In 2001, AWMI began a year-long celebration of our 20th anniversary culminating in the February 2002 Association International Conference (AIC) at the Coronado Springs Hotel at Disney World. AWMI’s leadership recognized the opportunity to strengthen our organization through alliances with other metal organizations. Agreements were signed with the Steel Service Center Institute (SSCI), American Society for Metals (ASM), and National Association of Aluminum Distributors (NAAD), which enhanced AWMI’s reputation in the metal industries. It also allowed AWMI to provide educational opportunities for our members through our affiliated organizations and opened our meetings and events to members of SSCI, ASM, and NAAD.
2001 was a year of struggle for the metal industries, AWMI, and the world. Twelve metal companies filed for bankruptcy protection including Bethlehem Steel, the third largest carbon steel producer in the United States. Acme Steel announced they were suspending operations due to high import levels and depressed steel prices. AWMI chapters across the country were affected by the metal industry financial losses with reduced membership and attendance at meetings and events. On September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, DC left an indelible mark on all of us.
During 2002, AWMI continued to struggle, as did many companies in the metal industries. Many more companies closed their doors and AWMI was faced with a still-declining membership. AWMI was averaging a loss of 200 members per year. The Atlanta Chapter closed. This downward trend caused AWMI to reevaluate its mission and goals, focusing on retention rather than growth. With the closing of Atlanta and the slow economy, the need for a Chapter Assistance Team (CAT) became evident. Maureen Webb, Vice President, became the chair and the team was off to a busy start.
Pam Edmiston (2003-2004) was elected International President with her two-year term beginning January 1, 2003.
With the economy continuing to be soft, companies being bought and members continuing to lose jobs, the new President and Board faced many challenges. The International Board put a positive spin on this downward trend in the industry and fought back. It might have become smaller, but AWMI maintained its strength in the industry and survived. AWMI changed the Sustaining Member category to allow men to vote and have all the privileges of a regular member, with the exception of serving on the Board of Directors.
As hard as the CAT team worked, they were unable to keep the Northern Illinois Rockford Chapter open and it was closed due to lack of participation.
During 2004 the economy stabilized and so did AWMI. In 2004, the Executive Board presented a new membership category to the Board of Directors. Corporate Membership was born to provide incentive for larger companies to increase their AWMI membership at a reduced rate. This new category was offered with the 2005 dues renewals.
AWMI’s International Conference was hosted by the Western Region at the new Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine, Texas. The focus of the conference was on education and the new frontier of the metal industries. The hit of the conference was the educational session product breakout with panelists, representing and discussing four different metal types: stainless, carbon, aluminum and red metals.
The CAT team worked hard in 2004 to keep the Dallas/Ft. Worth and New England Chapters alive. Once again, due to lack of participation and interest, the team was unable to keep the Chapters viable and they were closed.
However, AWMI ended 2004 with on a positive note. With the new corporate membership category, AWMI 2005 dues renewals were received in record numbers. What a way to end a year!
A Half Decade
Over half of the first decade of the “Oughts” passed and AWMI continued to grow, albeit not as quickly as in the heady Nineties. Much of the growth in 2005 and 2006 was attributed to the Corporate Membership program; the inaugural goal was not only met in the first quarter, but also doubled by the second!
In 2005, expansion plans, on hold for so long, were re-introduced to the International agenda and the Association discussed potential markets for the Expansion Committee to target. The Expansion Committee decided on the Quad Cities and Memphis, Tennessee. By May 2006, both provisional chapters met all requirements for full chapter status in 2007 including full board membership, minimum membership goals, commitments to calendar items, and working capital. For the first time since 1999, AWMI opened not one, but two new Chapters!
The Association continued to promote the goals of AWMI by hosting the 2005 fall Leadership conference in Tucson, Arizona. During the conference, our newly updated website was reintroduced thanks to generous donations from Nucor and US Steel. The restructured website, with improved navigability, more timely information, and interactive tools to aid leadership in doing their jobs, was an immediate success.
Celebrating and Reflecting - a Quarter Century later
In January 2005, Victoria Zanutto (2005-2006) was elected International President.
Two thousand-six marked AWMI’s quarter century, which was celebrated throughout the year in all chapters and was capped by our return to the Gaylord Texan for our fall International Conference. What a remarkable feat for our association! We met and then surpassed membership goals in the first half of the year. Corporate membership proved an effective way to facilitate sustained growth for our Association. We reestablished expansion plans and targeted more markets for provisional chapter growth. Each year our chapter volunteers offer better educational programs, timely subject matter, and experienced, high-quality speakers.
Despite these achievements, many challenges faced AWMI in terms of retaining and growing membership, raising funds for our conferences, and maintaining our purpose. The AWMI founders had a vision and made those dreams become reality. As women's careers in the metal industries are maturing and expanding, AWMI's current leadership must do the same. Today's leaders hold a burden of accountability to the pioneer leaders of yesterday to look to the future. AWMI must provide stronger programs than ever before to help its members develop new skills and abilities to compete in the workplace. AWMI must also address technology issues, communication skills, international business issuesand a host of other arenas to support its members' continued successes.
AWMI Takes Another Big Step
While reviewing our historical accomplishments and challenges in 2007, as well as our strategic plan for the future, the leaders of AWMI recognized we had outgrown our management firm of eleven years. After a carefully thought out six-month search process, the transition to our new management firm, Talley Management Group, was executed.
Another highly successful Leadership conference, once again at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, Texas, was concluded in November 2006. Terry Miller (2007-2008) was elected to the International Presidency. Six of our founding members, as well as two Oakland charter members, attended the 25th anniversary conference and saw just how far their vision in 1981 had grown. Their dream of offering a place for professional, career-oriented women in the metal industries was realized. They were overwhelmed with AWMI’s accomplishments.
Jacque Cech (2009-2010) became our next International President. These were a unique two years in that unemployment figures rose and the economy softened almost to depression status throughout our country. Although AWMI membership numbers dropped, the decrease was significantly less than that of other professional associations. What was lost in quantity was gained in quality of members. Many members remained loyal and paid their own dues if their companies were struggling. These times come to pass, they do not stay and we became stronger for the experience. During this time our Mentoring Program expanded and reached out to more members through the Mentor-of-the-Month program that was introduced in the fall of 2009 and is still evolving. The fall of 2009 also brought about the addition of our first media sponsor and strategic partner, SteelOrbis, an e-marketplace and content provider that offers relevant news on the steel industry and steel trading from one single source.
Leading the industry by example, AWMI also changed its bylaws to allow Sustaining Members to serve on our boards. Our 2009 Leadership Conference was held in San Diego with Dan DiMicco, Chairman, President and CEO – Nucor Corporation as our keynote speaker and a tour of General Dynamics NASSCO, the only major ship construction yard on the west coast of the United States.
Tucson, Arizona was our conference site for 2010 with Vicki Avril, President and CEO, TMK Ipsco as our keynote speaker. Ms. Avril spoke of the opportunities available at each step in her career and spoke about the positives of opening doors, presenting challenges to be met and growth to be achieved. This year also brought about our participation in METALCON, an international metal construction industry show, giving us more name recognition and the opportunity to reach new members.
Strengthening Leaders for 30 Years
In January 2011, Sian Marcone (2011-2012) began her International Presidency. It was now time to update and consolidate the Association’s Strategic Plan with definable goals and timelines. Strengthening our presence in the metal marketplace is our goal going forward as we move into the Association’s third decade pursuing our goals to Grow, Mentor, Network and Educate our members throughout the United States and Canada. Offering learning opportunities, the chance to network, to mentor (and be mentored) and grow personally and professionally are the commitment of AWMI’s leadership to its members. We have established a strong foundation over the last 30 years. That foundation will sustain us into the future and provide better educated and well informed members in the metal industries.
Into The Future
With the help and support of the Central Region, in 2012 AWMI celebrated the opening of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Chapter. Regional funds were assigned to an account at Headquarters. AWMI was able to participate in the following industry trade shows in 2012: SBB North America, METALCON and PMA’s Women in Manufacturing symposium. Through our members’ companies we were able to display our brochures at the following trade shows: ISRI, Offshore Technology Conference and AIST. This participation gave us greater credibility and visibility in our members’ many industry associations.
In order to strengthen our Association, the board voted to consolidate the Los Angeles and Northern California Chapters into the California Chapter in 2013; the Policy and Guideline Manual received a major update and our International and Chapter Bylaws underwent a legal review. The Association voted to accept our International Past Presidents as lifetime members (a new membership category) with the hope that they will more actively participate in local and international activities as well as participate in a Presidential Advisory Council.
The city of Denver, Colorado was the site of AWMI’s 2012 Annual Conference where the keynote speaker was Lisa Pauley, Senior Vice President, Human Resources & Administration of Ball Corporation. Ms. Pauley shared not only the business side of her experience but also personal insights of a long-term employee at the same company.
Membership approached 1,100 during 2012 and at the Denver Annual Conference a new trophy award was announced for the chapter that meets the criteria set by the Executive Committee. As a result of increased membership and a healthy budget the International Board of Directors also voted to have Headquarters absorb the cost of Continuous Service Awards to our members. To keep up with the times the Association has established a presence in the Social Media arena. AWMI is currently on both Facebook and LinkedIn.
At the Annual Conference in Denver, we unveiled a new AWMI promotional video that will appear on the AWMI website’s main page. This, along with a complete update of the AWMI website, should serve us well as we move forward.