A Conversation with Outstanding Female Leaders In Our Industry

Women’s History Month is celebrated in the month of March.  Print & Graphic Communications Association conducted an interview with six female print leaders in honor of Women’s History Month.  Following the next paragraph is an excerpt from an interview published in the March PIA Signature.  Download the full issue here.

Deborah Corn, the Intergalactic Ambassador to the Printerverse, celebrated Women’s Print History Month all month long!  You may have seen the many posts on LinkedIn with advice from female print leaders.  Listen to her podcast with Kelly Mallozzi which talks about their annual Print HerStory Month initiative, their FREE mentoring program, and the importance of mentors throughout our careers.

Print & Graphic Communications Association is fortunate to have a number of member companies that are headed up by outstanding women. We decided to get some of them together on a zoom call, in honor of Women’s History Month, to catch up and find out more about them. PIA Staff members Kim Tuzzo and Caroline Wawrzyniec talked with Kathie Hartmans, PIA Chair, Quality Bindery Services, PIA Board members Hallie Satz, HighRoad Press, Denise Padula, Alchar Printing and Diane Wasieczko, Compu-Mail LLC, along with Becky Almeter, Hodgins Engraving and Tracy Lach, Twenty-First Century Press.  Here are their thoughts on some timely topics.

Q: Has the work culture improved during your career, as far as respect that you get as a female leader?

KATHIE HARTMANS: I thought that was such a weird question, because I’ve never felt that I didn’t have respect. Maybe I thought I didn’t at some point, but it never occurred to me that a man would think I couldn’t do this job. I don’t know why. I just don’t see the world in that way. And I think in an industry like ours, you have to learn how to work with everybody, whether they be male or female, and you have to treat everybody equally.

I know there were a couple times when men would come in and they’d say, “We want your price list.” And I’d say, “Well, I’m not going to give you my price list.” And they thought they were the big man on campus and they thought they could boss me around, but I just stood my ground. The people in our industry are just such nice people. I have never made so many friends, more so than any other industry that I worked in.

HALLIE SATZ: My experience is a little different. I have been in the business over 35 years. I started in my early twenties, and I grew up in a family-run printing business that had bylaws against women owning the business.

When I started full time after college, our family business [Barton Press] had 120 employees. At that time, there were 20 women, who worked mainly in the office and in the fulfillment department. There were thirteen family members in the business with cousins, spanning three generations. Barton Press had started in 1922. I was working temporarily in the business while my husband was in law school, and I had planned to go back for my Master’s in Social Work or Psychology after he finished. I was working inside the company learning various jobs.

I wound up going into sales, I thought temporarily, after he finished law school. I was highly successful in sales in a short period of time. My quick success in sales changed the trajectory of the company regarding women, as the male cousins, especially those of the second generation, had no choice but to deal with a young woman in sales controlling so much business. I remember thinking about it recently when the whole #MeToo movement happened. I remember thinking to myself at that time: I can change this. I can change what this company looks like to our employees, to our clients, to our suppliers and to the industry. At the time, 98% of everyone I knew in print was male and white.

DENISE PADULA: I haven’t found a double standard in the printing industry, but, outside of the industry in a manufacturing group, the men wouldn’t talk about any struggles they had financially with me in the room. And there was only one other woman in the manufacturing group. The men used to privately talk to each other because they didn’t want to basically admit their shortcomings. I found it’s a lot easier as you get older to hold your own in a room and people respect you. Just because you have “x” number of years’ experience or once you get past a certain age, it seems like all of a sudden you’re invited to the table a little bit more often.

Alchar Printing was started in ’68 by Alan and Charlotte, and then Jack and Tom bought it. Later on I bought them out and became a certified WBE. I think working part-time since high school with the people helps; my foreman and I have been working together since we were 16. You develop the respect because you’re in it with them. And even though it’s union, when there’s work to be done, we’re all working to get it done.

I think the peer respect that we have from working with each other has made a world of difference. We haven’t had a male, female issue here as many companies might. And again, the family atmosphere helps it. You’re all in it together.

DIANE WASIECZKO: I’m new to the owner-ship role, but I’ve been in executive roles in the past. And I think this issue has been generational over the years. The new, younger generation; they’ve grown up with females around them, working and being in leadership roles. So I don’t see that in a younger generation. I’ve never experienced any discrimination or disrespect. I think if you’re confident in your abilities and yourself, it comes through. I am lucky to work with great partners, now, male and female, and we have mutual respect and admiration for each other.

TRACY LACH: Meg Crimmen and I have worked together since 1983 and we bought the business, Twenty-First Century Press, in ’98. We bought it from four men, and we came into commercial printing out of packaging, so we didn’t have a real good basis in this industry. It was a little bit of a tough start, but we figured it out. And the good thing about having a business partner that’s a woman is when our kids were young, and one of them had a play or a musical, we both knew that was more important than being in the office.
We’ve been fortunate, and we’ve had a great crew here since the beginning – men and women. But one of the things that I wondered about when we bought the business, people said, “Oh, well, you’re women owned, you’re going to be able to take advantage of this, and there’ll be so much business available to you.” And now, 17, 18 years later, we have finally found that we’re able to take advantage of our women owned status. But I wondered how other people’s experiences were with that.

BECKY ALMETER: In my role here at Hodgins Engraving, I’ve never really felt like discrimination has been an issue. We’re also very family oriented and we have mostly female employees, of all ages. A lot of the people have been here long enough to see me and my brothers grow up. So I went from this position of running around the shop when I was a kid to running the slitters, working in shipping, and finishing. I did that for a while and during that time, I worked with people that are still here.

Eventually, I worked in customer service and I did some marketing, and I slowly became more involved in the management of the company. A lot of the people that watched me grow, they were very gracious and helped me grow in those positions.

I’m old enough where I didn’t grow up having those female role models embedded, but I’m young enough to know that it’s absolutely unacceptable to have any discrimination. And we have that vibe and we have that culture here at Hodgins Engraving.

Want to keep reading?  Download the March 2022 PIA Signature here.  Questions?  Contact Kim Tuzzo at or (716) 691-3211.


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