Women in Propane speakers share valuable lessons

May 31, 2022 By    

Michelle Bimson Maggi, the final of four breakthrough speakers at the Women in Propane Council’s Celebration Summit, recognized the breakthrough moment as it unfolded.

She had just followed Leslie Woodward, Paula Wilson and Nancy Coop in a line of industry leaders recounting their own stories about how they ascended to the top of their profession.

Speaker photo by LP Gas staff

From left, Michelle Bimson Maggi, Nancy Coop, Leslie Woodward and Women in Propane chair Jennifer Jackson. (Photo by LP Gas staff)

“How rare is it to see four women sitting at the head table?” Bimson Maggi asked.

Then, instantly, she recognized how the makeup of the industry’s leadership is changing. In fact, Bimson Maggi, the vice president of law at AmeriGas, will become the first female chair of the National Propane Gas Association’s (NPGA) board of directors in June.

“Even now at NPGA, more women are sitting at the head table,” she said. “We’re not such a unicorn anymore.”

The daylong Celebration Summit last month in Nashville, Tennessee, ahead of the NPGA’s Propane Expo, brought this fact to light 10 years after the Women in Propane Council launched behind the efforts of LP Gas Hall of Famer Coop.

Woodward, Wilson, Coop and Bimson Maggi shared stories that were personal, comical, educational and uplifting.

They also served to help the industry continue its push toward a more diverse membership. As Bimson Maggi said, “If [women] see someone else doing it, all of a sudden ‘I can see myself doing it.’”

It wasn’t that easy early in Bimson Maggi’s career. Her father’s work at The Washington Post got her interested in the law. She joined a law firm and had thoughts of becoming a litigator – despite being told early in her career that she didn’t have what it takes.

“Be careful when people give you advice,” she said. “It’s not always in your best interest. … Take it for what it is and spend time thinking about it.”

A piece of advice to avoid: Fake it until you make it. Bimson Maggi said it’s OK to admit when you don’t know something because often people will want to help. Stay curious, ask questions and “own your career,” she said.

Woodward, the president at Fairview Ltd., did just that after stepping off Bay Street, “the Canadian version of Wall Street,” and into the world of codes and standards.

A faceoff with a competitor’s salesman who questioned the safety of Fairview’s hose assemblies led Woodward to defend her company’s position through the code. She got deeply involved in the NPGA’s Technology, Standards & Safety Committee (TS&S), eventually becoming its first female chair. Along the way, she put her skills – of writing, learning quickly and leadership – to work.

“The reason this incident occurred was he felt he could scare away the girl,” Woodward said of the lecturing salesman. “Obviously, that didn’t work.”

Her key point: Everyone can learn.

“You get good at stuff you keep doing,” she said. “Pick something, focus on it and be open to different styles of communication.”

Wilson retraced a 30-year career path through AmeriGas, consulting work and to the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), where she is director of industry engagement. She’s also known for becoming PERC’s first female chair.

“I highly recommend people get involved and volunteer. That’s what helped me throughout my career,” said Wilson in a prerecorded video.

Coop related the Women in Propane’s success and her success to collaboration, preparation and perseverance.

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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