CHICAGO — Theresa Garcia, vice president of operations, and Patricia Garcia Luna, vice president of administration, with Division Laundry & Cleaners in San Antonio, which provides commercial laundry services for South and Central Texas, believe that being women in the laundry/linen services industry presents challenges.
The sisters also believe it offers opportunities.
“Some challenges that we face are gender stereotypes, that we are ‘too emotional’ or ‘too bossy,’” they share. “Our perspective is that we are passionate and have leadership skills. We have to continue to fight these gender stereotypes.”
Teresa Avery, general manager, Munson Healthcare Support Services, Traverse City, Michigan, doesn’t think being a woman in the laundry industry is any more challenging than being a woman in any other market.
“I don’t discount that there can be more professional barriers for women than there are for men, but I have not personally felt that my gender is a disadvantage and I have always felt supported by my peers both male and female,” she says.
“I do believe that as in any industry we need to recognize the value of the women who work in our companies,” shares Noël Hammer Richardson, president, Shasta Linen Supply, serving the Sacramento and San Juaquin Valleys in California.
“I am a firm believer that women are extremely capable of multitasking and problem solving, which are skill sets very necessary for production and management in our facilities.”
All four of these women have shown themselves “extremely capable” and have conquered challenges to succeed in the laundry industry and were nominated by their peers for this article. In the conclusion, the spotlight shines on Avery.
TERESA AVERY, MUNSON HEALTHCARE SUPPORT SERVICES
Unlike the Garcia sisters and Richardson, Avery didn’t grow up in a laundry/linen services family. However, family did motivate her to achieve more in life.
“I was divorced, raising a son, working in the automotive industry,” she shares. “At some point, I realized that both my son and I deserved a better life than what I was currently giving us. I began work at the laundry knowing that I would have opportunities to find a career in the healthcare industry. That career ended up being right at the laundry.”
Avery started college at 39 while working in the laundry, earning as associate’s in applied science degree in computer networking with the thought of working in IT.
“It just so happened that the same week my degree was complete, our operations coordinator put in her two-week notice,” she says. “I applied for the position and it ended up being a perfect fit. While I was operations coordinator, I returned to school to study business administration and earned my bachelor’s degree.”
Five years later, the laundry manager transferred to a different department, and Avery transitioned to the management position.
“I started my laundry career in the soil sort, and our maintenance manager at the time encouraged me to apply to college,” she relates. “That push changed my life. The laundry manager at the time was supportive, and he is the one that encouraged me to pursue the management position.
“I had a lot of support from our supply chain team and our VP; they all made an effort to make me comfortable in this role and were good resources when I ran into questions.”
Avery’s first challenge as a laundry manager was staffing. When she took the role, Munson Healthcare Support Services was without a maintenance supervisor, and it was also without an operations coordinator because she had been filling that position.
“The first couple of months were spent not only managing the daily operations but managing both of those positions and looking for talent to fill them,” she says. “I learned a lot those first few months, not only about management but also about my own strengths and limitations.
Another challenge she faces is keeping employees engaged.
“I think it’s important that they understand that what we do is important and that everything we touch here plays a role in patient care,” Avery points out. “It’s easy for them to forget why we are here.
“I try to balance my time between the office and out on the production floor.”
To other women striving for success in the industry, Avery says this: “Surround yourself with the best and the brightest that you can. You need people on your team that not only support you, but that will challenge you to be your best. Also, be open to new ideas and processes. Your staff can be your greatest asset sometimes.”
Miss Part 1 about the Garcia sisters? Click HERE to read it. Click HERE to read Part 2 about Noël Hammer Richardson. And watch for more profiles of women in laundry in the October issue of American Laundry News.