Women in Propane group would serve as valuable resource

January 6, 2012 By    

Only weeks after then-NPGA Conventions Committee Chairman Tom Jaenicke first proposed a propane industry group for women, Sheldon Gas co-owner Jill Hopkins made a memorable statement in this magazine as part of a company profile.

Hopkins had been explaining her decision to leave a career in teaching to become a leader in the family’s propane business when, in 2010, she said, “In the old days, a son always took over. Well, it’s a brave, new world. Sometimes the person or people best suited are the daughters of the last generation. Then our daughters see us in those roles successful, reasonably happy, professional, making the right moves. So that success breeds more success.”

Well spoken and a good example to explain a new endeavor gathering momentum this new year. It focuses on encouraging women’s roles in the propane industry, and how ironic that one of its biggest proponents is … a man.

“Throughout the years I’ve worked alongside great people, smart people, hard-working people, focused people, successful people,” says Jaenicke, an industry consultant. “It so happens that many of them are women.”

Jaenicke has seen such a woman’s group work successfully in organizations related to the building industry, and he thought it would have the same effect in the propane industry. So, during a 2010 Conventions Committee meeting in Texas, he proposed the idea, which initially started out as a networking program.

“You get the expected rolling of the eyes from some people, and other people have that curious interest,” Jaenicke recalls.

One person in particular who held that curiosity was Jennifer Tomb, director of convention and meetings for NPGA and staff secretary for the Conventions Committee. Tomb has been “a moving force behind this” project, says Nancy Coop, sales and marketing consultant for JARCO, and a leader in her own right.

The first step involved assembling a task force – a subgroup of the Conventions Committee – to pinpoint the parameters of the project. About 10 industry members, representing retailers, equipment and service providers and NPGA staff, gathered on an initial conference call last June. Coop was installed as chair of the group, Hopkins chair-elect and Tomb staff liaison.

Since the initial planning stages, the group has taken another big step: moving ahead to become an official NPGA business council, called the Women in Propane Council, modeled after the Benchmarking and Cylinder Exchange councils. It will present its recently finalized bylaws for approval at NPGA’s winter board and committee meetings this month in Key West, Fla. NPGA’s Executive Committee already has approved the council.

The bylaws spell out the purpose of the council, namely to encourage the employment of women in the industry, including appointments to leadership positions; provide strategies for equal opportunities to minimize obstacles faced by women in the industry; and advance awareness of the contributions women have made in the industry.

Great examples and success stories already exist in the industry today, and the Women in Propane Council will help bring those leaders to light and to inspire others. From bobtail drivers to customer service representatives to high-level executives, the council will hold a place for everyone.

Take note, this isn’t a group strictly for women. It is rallying support from the entire propane industry, to get everyone engaged and to seat a representative at the table. In addition, Tomb wants to learn about companies with similar programs or best practices that would fit well with this national effort.

Once it gains NPGA approval, the council plans to launch its inaugural program – a roundtable event and networking reception – at April’s Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo in Atlanta, feeding off the industry’s centennial year celebration. Networking, mentoring and educational opportunities will be a big part of the council.

More details on the Women in Propane Council will emerge, also on social media sites Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, in the coming weeks.

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About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at brichesson@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3748.

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