Tracing all the way back to the 1890s, women have played an integral role in the formation, perpetuation and elevation of all aspects of the flooring industry. Catherine Evans, a pioneer in the tufting and carpet industries, innovated a technique behind her tufted bedspreads that lead to the eventual production of tufted rugs and broadloom carpet. Shirley Lorberbaum, a leader in the Dalton, Georgia, community, was an activist, philanthropist and co-founder of Aladdin Mills—which after merging with Mohawk and Karastan in 1994 became the second largest carpet mill in the U.S. Women in front and behind the scenes have contributed to the floorcovering industry as we know it today.
It is with that deep-rooted sense of history and purpose that the Women in the Floorcovering Industry (WIFI) organization has been inspired and formed, in hopes of providing resources and relationships that will support and combine the talents of the industry’s women, and beyond.
“I have personally experienced the power of networking with other women and their supporters in the flooring industry,” said Emily Morrow Finkell, founder and CEO, Emily Morrow Home. “There is a sense of deep kinship within our industry, and by offering women a place to share their experiences and aspirations, we hope to encourage personal and professional growth and empowerment, thereby strengthening the industry as a whole.”
Early interest in WIFI shows that the industry is primed for a formalized organization of this nature, as indicated by a survey aimed at identifying the group’s priorities and interests for virtual and in-person networking events, conducted by the organization’s incubation team.
WIFI follows suit in an uptick of these curated places and spaces specially designed to support women and women’s interests. “It’s so important for women to stick together and build each other up in this industry and in the construction industry overall, which is a male-dominated industry,” said Kelly Oberschlake, senior director of sales, Mohawk.
As the incubation team aims to build the infrastructure needed to form a sustainable and formalized group, WIFI seeks input from both women and men in the industry to help set priorities for the organization, develop a founding board of directors and members, and plan a program of virtual and in-person networking events.
Like its industry predecessors, WIFI has lofty goals, which include but are not limited to, providing resources for women in the industry, mentorship for the next generation, scholarships to support students’ industry-related studies, and community connection. And what better place to start than Dalton, home of the floorcovering industry?
“Dalton is home to the U.S. floorcovering industry, and our city is delighted to be the headquarters for Women in Flooring,” said Beth Morrison, vice president of member services at the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce. “The Greater Dalton Chamber is passionate about connecting the pool of talented women leaders in flooring—and their supporters—locally with others nationally and beyond.”
Morrison says the group will begin connecting on a virtual platform, as it prepares for its first in-person event to be held in June at The International Surface Event in Las Vegas.