Marcia Veidmark welcomed Mary Vermeer Andringa, president & CEO of Iowa-based Vermeer Corporation, to SSC.

When SSC Boring Owner Marcia Veidmark welcomed Mary Vermeer Andringa, president & CEO of Iowa-based Vermeer Corporation, to Phoenix recently, it was a chance for two successful business women in male-dominated industries to compare notes. We drilled down to get their thoughts on women in male-dominated industries, role models and mentoring.

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Q. What brought you to Phoenix, Ms. Andringa?

Mary Vermeer Andringa: Vermeer had a board of directors meeting there. We also had some sales training for our North American and international sales people so they’d be able to have hands on opportunity with some equipment and get to enjoy better weather than we have in Iowa. While I was there, I was able to make a couple of key calls, and one of them was to Marcia. This was actually the first time I had ever met her. I have had many people who have worked with her tell me, “Oh, you two have got to meet,” but this was my first opportunity to do so.

Marcia Veidmark: I was very pleased for the opportunity to meet Mary. She’s a fantastic woman and a good business leader. We have a lot of things in common. There’s no question she’s quite a role model and an inspiration to women like myself who have businesses in the construction industry so I appreciate her immensely.

Q. What things did you find you had in common?

Andringa: We’re both involved in a family business and we both have sons in the business. I think our values are very similar in that we try to create a positive family-type atmosphere for all of our employees. We believe that we continue to look for innovative solutions to problems in different industries for our equipment. Obviously, Marcia’s company is looking for innovation in how they do their contracting work.

Q. You’re both successful women in businesses that have been male-dominated for many years. Are those barriers coming down little by little, do you think?

Veidmark: We definitely have made progress, though there are still some glass ceilings out there. I do see them continuing to be broken, however, and I see women excelling. The more women that we see who, like Mary, are out there at a high level in a large international company will inspire in women the idea that you can be both a good business person and a person of good character. You can soar to the top and still maintain the qualities that are meaningful to women.

Andringa: I do think that’s starting to change, but in our generation there are not that many women in the leadership positions in the construction industry, that is true. I do think that will change. It’s changing as more generations come in and more women are getting into leadership positions in different industries.

Q. Are you optimistic about the generations to come, young women who you see and work with and mentor?

Andringa: Yes, particularly in some industries more than others. It’s often daughters – I’m a daughter of a founder myself – who are not necessarily in the so-called “traditional” roles for women of marketing or finance. I have a daughter and a niece who are both involved in our business and are learning different parts of the business and they are also young mothers.

Q. Marcia, did you have someone who mentored you? And what advice do you have for the next generation of business women?

Veidmark: Mentoring is critical. One of my early mentors was one of my first CPAs. She had great faith in me and saw I could go higher than even I believed I could. She inspired me to pursue my education and acquire the skills to run my company. My simple advice to today’s young business women is keep focused on your goals, know your industry well and you’ll earn the respect you need to succeed in your career.

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Q. What qualities do you think today’s business women have to have, and are they any different than the qualities a business man has to have?

Andringa: I don’t tend to think a lot about the differences, to be honest with you. I think more about leadership and I think communication is important no matter what gender you are. I think good planning skills are very important, being able to deal with ambiguity is very important, and being able to adapt to changes. Those skills are important whether you male or female.

Q. What’s the best part of your job?

Veidmark: I’m intrigued with business. I love the full scope of what it takes to do business, ownership and operation. I’m comfortable with the risk and responsibility that comes with a life of business leadership. I also see great value in providing opportunities for people to work and be respected and see those people achieve personally and professionally.

http://www.phoenixchamber.com/news/newsletter/businesswise/2011/0322/twoofakind