AWMI began with the vision of Heidi Doran, as an organization that would offer meetings and forums to 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 June 3, 1981, the organization was incorporated in the State of California. 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.”
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 and in 1983, the Chicago, Houston and New York Chapters were born. By the end of the 80’s six more chapters were started, a Directory was published of our membership and Regions were approved.
With funds available in the National budget the membership approved 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. In 1995 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.
In 1996, AWMI's 15th year, AWMI planned its first All-Member Conference in an effort to expand AWMI's service to its members as well as its visibility within the metal industries. The conference was a success and it remains in place to this day as the annual gathering of Members for meetings and networking. Our membership numbers also exceeded 1,900 members for the first time and our first chapter from Canada was formed changing board positions from National to International.
In 2000, 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.
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.
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.
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.
With the help and support of the Central Region, in 2012 AWMI celebrated the opening of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Chapter. We began marketing AWMI at trade shows and through our members’ companies we were able to display our brochures at the following shows: ISRI, Offshore Technology Conference and AIST in addition to having booths at several other shows. This participation gave us greater credibility and visibility in our members’ many industry associations.
With several chapter consolidations and regional alignments taking place over the years to strengthen our organization, we are now at 19 chapters and 5 regions across the US and Western Canada to serve our membership. Individual memberships are increasing after a few years of decline and our new website will be launched in 2019.