The irony of it is it took a man to make the woman what she is today. Harriet Weiss, chief executive officer of the Pennsauken, New Jersey-based CRW Graphics, got her break in the printing industry from her husband Larry. More than 30 years ago, he hired her as a general manager at his forms business. She nearly quadrupled business for him in less than two years time, earning her the position of president of the company.
"He was my mentor," Weiss said. "He gave me the opportunity."
"There were few women in the business in 1978," Weiss recalled. "Things could get sticky when bills were not paid or a problem came up. Males wouldn't want to deal with you. They would say, 'I prefer not to talk to you. I would rather talk to your husband.'"
Today's paper mills and companies may not be overflowing with women, but there are more than ever before and they no longer have to deal with being alone in a man's world. And the ones there, are bringing a special touch to the industry.
Many things have changed since the days when simply the location of Weiss' desk made her a target for disrespect.
"I sat by the front door," she explained. "People were so rude to me. They thought I was the receptionist. If it wasn't for my husband—men were not very welcoming to women then. There was an assumption that you were never a leader."
Cindy Glass, director of sales and marketing for the Green Bay, Wisconsin-based H.C. Miller Company, can empathize with Weiss.
"This is and continues to be a 'male-dominated' industry," Glass added. "Most men looked at me with a jaundiced eye toward equipment knowledge and application. I saw this as a challenge, not a barrier. Today, this is not the same issue it was in the past, with more women entering the print arena. It has gotten easier for me, however, because my customers now realize that my expertise in used printing equipment is equal to or superior to many of my male counterparts."