From the halls of our nation's capital to the elevator industry, how I went from surviving to thriving in a male-dominated world.
By Amy J. Blankenbiller, Executive Director, National Elevator Industry, Inc.
When most children grow up, they want to be like their parents. That was certainly the case for my sisters, who went on to become a teacher and architect like my mom and dad. But not me. I wanted to be like… my neighbor. She was a judge and had been one of only a few women in her law school class. She was also politically connected and was an advocate for various issues. She helped me land my first job in D.C. with Senator Bob Dole and continued to be a sounding board throughout my career (and life).
While living my best D.C. policy life, I worked with another great woman who taught me about the importance of women supporting women. In particular, she stressed how critical it was for more experienced women to help younger women set their professional pathway. And that’s exactly what she did for me. She took me under her wing and was there through thick and thin when I was learning the slippery ropes of D.C. politics.
My DC mentor gave me three pieces of advice that I follow to this day:
- Are you asking someone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself?
- Would you be proud enough to tell your mom/dad/family?
- Would your actions cause you to be brought before a Senate oversight committee?
Beyond her inspirational words, I also admired her inspirational actions. She did not back down when her male counterparts tried to silence or dismiss her input. On the contrary, she stood even taller and spoke with confident authority, something I worked hard to emulate – even when I was incredibly intimidated. But following her lead served me well when I worked for the George H.W. Bush administration and was the point person for the federal government’s efforts related to capping and controlling the Kuwait oil fires. I was 25 years old managing a group of “roughneck” oil men, but it was there where I learned to find my voice.
As I transitioned to working with home builders, the metal casting industry, the Kansas business community and now the elevator industry, I noticed one characteristic that all four of these industries have in common: very few women in the top leadership positions. With each new position and additional responsibilities, I would often get a lot of unsolicited advice about how a professional woman should act, typically from men. While some women may have been offended, I wasn’t. I took the input and factored it into my professional development without letting their words shake my confidence. And in many ways, all of that guidance that I think was often intended to change my manner actually strengthened my resolve about staying true to myself.
And today, on International Women’s Day, it’s now my turn to serve as mentor and impart some sage advice. It is more important than ever for women of the world to lift each other up and help one another overcome obstacles that arise in the pathway toward our goals. Find your voice and do not let anyone shake your confidence. Be relentless in your pursuit of your dreams. And remember that you do not have to climb to the top of the corporate ladder to make a difference; sometimes it is the small things that can help the most. But most importantly, never give up. Fight for those things that are important to you, in all aspects of your life.
We have come a long way, but we have also just begun. Let me know how I can help.
NEII is the premier trade association representing the global leaders in the building transportation industry. Its members install, maintain, and/or manufacture elevators, escalators, moving walks, and other building transportation products. NEII‘s membership includes the six major international companies – Fujitec America, Inc., KONE, Inc., Mitsubishi Electric US, Inc., Otis Elevator Company, Schindler Elevator Corporation, TK Elevator and several other companies across the country. Collectively, the NEII members represent approximately eighty-five percent of the total hours worked within the elevator and escalator industry, employ more than 25,000 people in the U.S. and indirectly support hundreds of thousands of American jobs in affiliate industries.
For more information about NEII, please visit www.neii.org.