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 Part 2, the spotlight is shined on Richardson.
NOËL HAMMER RICHARDSON, SHASTA LINEN SUPPLY
Richardson can trace her family’s laundry history back to 1886 when her great-grandfather immigrated from Scotland to Chicago. He started MacAulay’s Laundry service soon after arriving.
“My grandfather continued in his father’s footsteps and eventually ended up purchasing the Herb Grow Laundry here in Sacramento and renaming it Shasta Linen Supply,” she says. “I am the fourth generation to work in the business, and I am looking forward to celebrating our 100th anniversary in just a couple of years!”
Growing up, Richardson worked every summer at the plant in many roles: janitor, feeding ironers, working on presses, running a vacation route.
“Although the business was always a large part of our lives, my parents never expected us to continue in their footsteps and encouraged us to explore through our education other interests,” she points out. “I was a fine arts major in college.”
Indeed, instead of working in the laundry, Richardson spent 20 years living in Athens, Greece, raising three children. Eventually, she started working in the textile business selling fabrics for fashion.
“I was scared to death when I first started working,” she shares. “My Greek was adequate but by no means perfect. That work experience pushed me out of my comfort zone and gave me the self-confidence to tackle new challenges with more self-assurance. It was an invaluable lesson and has certainly helped me in my current position here at Shasta Linen.”
Returning to the United States and Shasta Linen was a challenging step in her life, explains Richardson.
“My father was a hard taskmaster, and taking on a leadership role was earned and not an entitlement,” she shares. “I had a lot to learn on the management side, and then he became ill shortly after my rejoining the business. I quickly felt the weight and responsibility of my position and the decisions I made.”
Richardson emphasizes that she admired her father’s sense of fairness and clear-thinking skills. She says that he and her uncle, Gordon MacAulay, who stills works with her at Shasta Linen, “influenced me with their unwavering support and belief in me.
“But another very positive influence for me are the people in this industry. I cannot think of another industry where competitors can sit at the same table, share ideas, offer support and still be competitors. I admire the hard work, the sense of pride and responsibility for employees, customers and communities that so many members of our industry represent.”
Beyond success at Shasta Linen, Richardson has made a mark in the industry and will become the first female chair of the board for TRSA, the association for linen, uniform and facility services.
“As a woman, don’t be afraid of speaking up and taking on assignments and offering your ideas,” she says. “Also, listen to webinars, attend events if that is an option, don’t be afraid, people are welcoming and will take the time to talk to you.
“Like in any industry, it’s not easy to step out of your comfort zone, but you can do it!”
Miss Part 1 about the Garcia sisters? Click HERE to read it. Check back Tuesday for the conclusion on Teresa Avery.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].