Imagine having decades of experience under your belt and walking into a meeting with customers and having them look right past you and engaging with your counterpart instead.
Marti Wenzler, strategic account manager at Lawson Products, can’t count the number of times this has happened to her, despite having been in the industry since 1998.
“It's very common, and I know many women who own rental companies who have shared similar experiences,” Wenzler says. “Traditionally, it’s not a woman’s world, and there are absolutely stereotypes that we're still challenged with overcoming, but it’s evolving so much more, and that’s been fun to see.”
While women have gained a foothold in the rental industry in recent years, there is still progress to be made surrounding the inclusion and empowerment of females in the industry.
That’s where events like the American Rental Association’s (ARA) Women in Rental come in. The annual event took place in Scottsdale, Ariz., in December 2022, in conjunction with the ARA’s Young Professionals event.
“It’s great for women with shared challenges and questions and interests to support each other and learn from each other,” Wenzler says. “There is a wonderful and diverse range of experience within the group, so together, we can solve just about any equation.”
Attendees and organizers of the American Rental Association’s Women in Rental event share their takeaways from the event, touch on what it means to be women in a male-dominated field and offer their advice on how other women in the rental industry can follow their lead.
The event itself featured ample opportunities for attendees to network with one another through receptions, activities throughout Scottsdale and meals with the Young Professional event attendees.
The event also boasted education sessions, led by Sara Frasca, COO at Point Northeast, a global business coaching firm, and an innovation and business growth expert.
Frasca is known for leading organizations to cultivate human imagination, build a culture of accountability and solve complex problems to drive business growth.
Her presentation focused on three strategies to create positive disruption in the industry: how any problem can be solved through creativity, how changes to rules, environment, speed and vantage point will change outcomes and how grit, tenacity and constant experimentation can guide attendees to success in their businesses and in their careers.
“We learn so much from these presentations as the speakers are tailored to communicate with women,” says Angela Nussel, vice president of administration for Premiere Events. “A lot of times, you hear a speaker and you feel like you can achieve anything, but there are no practical applications, which is what’s more motivational. Frasca gave us a way to apply the tools. I’m looking forward to using the knowledge she shared with us and implementing those tools she literally handed us.”
Christine Hammes, vice president of association services, ARA, adds that Frasca’s presentations and the spirit of collaboration and connection further encouraged attendees to implement their takeaways once they returned to their respective companies.
“It’s giving attendees the confidence and empowerment to think, ‘there’s no reason why I can’t create a different solution for this,’” Hammes says. “It’s empowering them to have the confidence to go back and implement new tools so that they would step up in their positions and say, ‘I have a new idea.’ We’re also trying to elevate (the programming) and take it to that next level of how we’re going to help them keep climbing that ladder and moving down the path.”
With the rental industry being comprised of fewer women than men, Annie Ricci, vice president of Bigfork Rentals in Flathead County, Mont., says being a woman in the industry can feel isolating.
The networking aspect of the event stuck out to Ricci as she noticed attendees connecting, sharing ideas and information with one another.
“There’s the need for women to have the support of other women to know that they’re not the only one going through something, not the only one manning the front counter,” Ricci says, who has experience herself in being overlooked, with customers coming in and telling the janitor at her rental company that there’s no one to help them, despite her presence at the front counter.
She adds, “It’s good for women to have other women to share experiences with and bounce ideas off of each other.”
To make even more progress with drawing more women to the industry, Wenzler suggests rental companies reach out to high school and colleges through career days and job fairs to let women know that the rental exists as a viable option.
“It’s a great industry for women from both the business and supplier sides,” Wenzler says. “I came into the industry halfway through my career, and this was all very new to me, and I wish I had known about this so much sooner. I know when I was coming through school, I had absolutely no idea it was an option.”
Advice from women
“Put yourself out there. Joining groups and making connections in the industry is where you gain confidence. The more connections you make across the industry, the more helpful it is and the more it empowers you to on your career trajectory.” — Christine Hammes, vice president of association services, American Rental Association
“The most important thing for women is to be nice to ourselves. We have all these little voices in our head of self-doubt and self-criticism, talking us out of our successes. Don’t get discouraged. As women, we do have to work harder than men in general to be respected, but we can do it. If we're willing to put in the work, there's no stopping us.” — Angela Nussel, vice president of administration, Premiere Events
“Seek out opportunities to connect with other professional women—no matter what the industry—so that you find support.” — Annie Ricci, vice president, Big Fork Rentals
“As women in the industry, attending events like this create a safe space to find shared interests and common challenges through networking with like-minded professionals.” — Marti Wenzler, strategic account manager at Lawson Products.