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Women in Propane Council marks a milestone

March 15, 2022 By    
Photo courtesy of the Women in Propane Council

The Women in Propane Council aims to encourage professional and personal growth among industry members. (Photo courtesy of the Women in Propane Council)

The Women in Propane Council has always been ahead of its time.

“Diversity and inclusion” – now a well-known phrase in the business world – wasn’t much of a buzzword 10 years ago when the Women in Propane Council formed. Yet, the council’s early leaders worked to incorporate that concept into its very foundation, says Nancy Coop, founding chair of Women in Propane and director of marketing at Cetane Associates.

Women in Propane is a National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) business council, established to provide opportunities for all industry members to grow as professionals. The council encourages business leaders to approach hiring and promotions with an open mind, looking at all qualified candidates and placing value on diversity in the workplace.

“A lot of it was to help people understand that [you] don’t eliminate someone who might be on your list because you might be concerned about that person’s family situation, for example, that person’s ability to travel or whatever might even be a concern,” Coop says.

The council is not exclusive to women. Coop estimates men make up about 15 percent of its 500-plus members.

This year, the Women in Propane Council is celebrating 10 years in the industry – a “decade of excellence,” as the council has dubbed it.

Laying the groundwork

Although this year marks a decade since the council’s formation, Women in Propane’s history dates back 12 years to 2010, when talk of a group dedicated to women in the propane industry first began at an NPGA Conventions Committee meeting in Texas.

Headshot: Nancy Coop

Coop

Coop was one of several leaders who advocated for the formation of such a council, and she embraced the idea with vigor.

“I was surprised that [with] a very large board that the NPGA has, [there was a] very small representation of females on the board,” says Coop. “It was really shocking to me. I knew it was a male-dominated industry, but I was really surprised to see that the leadership almost essentially excluded women on the board. You can’t inspire other people to be leaders if they don’t see someone in leadership roles that looks like themselves.”

The idea was well received by the Conventions Committee, Coop says, and the committee established a task force to discuss the formation of a group for women in the industry.

“From there, we started talking about: What could this become? What were the good ideas about this? What do we not want it to be? Who’s going to lead it?” says Coop.

The task force discussed a range of ideas for the council, from yoga classes to luncheons. But ultimately, the team concluded it was important that Women in Propane be a business council, with functions that are relevant to business people in the industry.

In fall 2011, Coop presented the proposal and bylaws to the NPGA Executive Committee, which granted its approval. On Jan. 31, 2012, the NPGA board of directors voted the Women in Propane Council into existence.

Defining a mission

After becoming an official NPGA business council, Women in Propane didn’t hesitate to get to work.

By April 2012, Women in Propane held its first event – a roundtable to formally define its mission.

Fifty-three people attended the roundtable, Coop says. By the end of the meeting, Women in Propane had three clearly defined goals: networking, mentorship and leadership.

The council addressed those goals by hosting public speaking training, leadership sessions and receptions where members could liaison with peers and leaders in the industry. Those functions were designed, in part, to grow confidence and networking skills among women in the industry.

“We are a male-dominated industry, and that was one of the great reasons this needed to happen, to make sure that everyone was thinking outside the box,” Coop says. “We can’t just go ahead with the same exact group of people always leading us. We needed to really start being concerned about diversity and inclusion.”

Piloting programs

Photo courtesy of the Women in Propane Council

The Women in Propane Council hosts roundtables and leadership events. (Photo courtesy of the Women in Propane Council)

Keeping its three core goals in mind, Women in Propane established several programs to provide opportunities for women and men in the industry.

In 2016, the group launched two programs in particular that have yielded success and member engagement: the Knowledge Exchange and DiSC training programs.

The Knowledge Exchange aims to foster professional and personal growth through mentorship. It pairs participants with either a mentor or mentee in the industry and provides networking and continuous learning opportunities for both parties, says Laurie Irish-Jones, CEO of Irish Companies and past chair of Women in Propane.

“The Knowledge Exchange, to me, was the first thing that gave birth [to] mentors in this national organization,” Irish-Jones says. “You have experience with people that have been in the industry for decades and a lot of families that have generations [of experience]. Talk about a wealth of knowledge to be able to work with, train and mentor people.”

Meanwhile, DiSC training is designed to improve communication in the workplace. It is based on psychologist William Moulton Marston’s DiSC theory, which identifies how an individual communicates with others, particularly in a professional context.

According to Irish-Jones, the DiSC program has been quite successful.

“When you do DiSC, it [reveals] how you’re hardwired – how you look at the world and how you communicate,” she says. “It not only shows you that, but it also shows you how people perceive you and where you could have room to maybe grow, because communication is the No. 1 thing that people always need to keep developing.”

Additionally, Women in Propane began to offer “DiSC on the Road,” where the council’s DiSC trainers travel to companies for on-site training. By 2019, the council offered virtual DiSC training, positioning itself to continue that training during the pandemic seamlessly.

Looking ahead

Laurie Irish-Jones

Irish-Jones

After reflecting on the past decade, Coop and Irish-Jones agree on one way they’d like to see Women in Propane evolve in the next 10 years.

Now that the council has established its governance nationally, the two leaders hope to see Women in Propane become further accessible at the state and regional levels.

The efforts are underway already, with several council members volunteering as local ambassadors to lay the groundwork for state or regional engagement with Women in Propane, Irish-Jones says.

“I think that there is so much room for growth if it spiderwebs out through these [local] ambassadors into the different states and regions,” says Irish-Jones. “That way, you can further promote the Knowledge Exchange and training, whether it be through DiSC or through other avenues that we can bring to the local level.”

The work that grew the council from 53 members to 500-plus in a decade is just ramping up, Coop explains, and she’s ready for what the next decade will hold.

“I’ve been there from the beginning, and I’m going to keep going,” she says. “I really think it’s valuable for the industry. It’s been an honor to serve with all these people who feel dedicated to this type of group that can help people feel confident in what they’re doing and [ensure] they’re on the right track, and that they have the tools to go ahead and move forward in their workplace.”


Milestones in the Women in Propane Council’s (WIP) history

2010: Talks of forming the council begin.
2012: The National Propane Gas Association votes WIP into existence.
2012: WIP hosts its first event.
2014: WIP co-hosts a roundtable at the World LPG Forum.
2014: AmeriGas’ Paula Wilson is the first woman to chair the Propane Education & Research Council.
2016: WIP launches the Knowledge Exchange mentorship program and DiSC training.
2018: WIP becomes an official chapter of Women in LPG, managed by the World LPG Association.
2021: WIP launches its stand-alone website.
2022: WIP initiates state and regional association engagement, led by ambassadors nationwide.

About the Author:

Carly Bemer (McFadden) is the managing editor at LP Gas magazine. She can be reached at 216-363-3930 or cbemer@northcoastmedia.net.

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