Her Voice: Game Changer at the Top

There are very few women at the top of EMS companies. Can you name one? It’s hard to find women in top positions within this industry. Socially, women are taught to nurture and boys are influenced to lead. Today’s women can excel and lead, yet the statistics show otherwise. Women comprise 51% of the U.S. population yet only 4% are in CEO roles. They fill more than 60% of all entry-level positions but only 28% rise to manager-level roles; this number decreases at every subsequent level. While many Fortune 500 companies are moving in the right direction, this is not true for the EMS industry. Being at the forefront of technology, one would think that they would embrace female leadership, yet surprisingly the industry is lagging way behind. 

mhknox.jpgSince executive women in the EMS industry are few and far between, I researched women who have succeeded in other industries. I wanted to learn from them and be inspired by them. One is Maggie Hardy Knox. Many of you may not know that name, but why would you?  She is in the lumber business (another "man’s industry"). She is the owner and CEO of 84 Lumber Co., the largest privately-owned building materials supplier in the U.S.

Although Maggie didn’t start the company on her own, she has been the CEO for nearly 30 years. It was founded by her father Joe Hardy in 1956, in the village of Eighty Four, Pennsylvania. Maggie is responsible for making it what it is today, an estimated $4 billion market leader, a journey that began in 1992 when her father skipped over his eldest son (the COO who had worked his way up to that position) and handed the reins to his youngest daughter Maggie, who was only 26 years old at the time. This unprecedented move was a game changer for the lumber business.  

Maggie immediately refocused the company to serve the needs of the changing market. She expanded into custom door shops and component manufacturing plants alongside their engineered wood product centers and custom millwork nationwide. This move drove revenues up over $1 billion for the first time in 1993. She steered the company in an era when the industry was changing its entire culture.  She listened to her associates and plotted a new course for the lumber company. According to her Linked In page, her nurturing leadership style includes promoting from within and treating associates with dignity and respect as members of a family. 

During the 2009 housing market, she was fearless. Going against all odds and against her father’s advice as well as her advisors, she barely missed bankruptcy. Using her own personal finances and borrowing at loan shark interest rates, she began to close select stores to stave off a complete disaster. This move ultimately proved to be successful and by 2012 she had brought the company back up over $2 billion.   

Maggie is the youngest of five children and has a 48-year age gap between father and daughter, but she was raised free of stereotypes. Growing up, she preferred playing with the boys and it wasn’t unusual to find her at a young age tagging along with her father to the lumberyard, a store grand opening, or a board meeting. One of her early memories, according to the Wall Street Journal[1], is pushing open her father’s office door and seeing him standing on his chair, screaming, and hurling clumps of papers at a bewildered lawyer. In her current office hangs a picture of her at age five, wearing a rumpled hat and holding a shovel alongside her father, who was holding an ax. His influence obviously made a big impression on her.  

Still today, society influences our daughters to nurture and our sons to lead. Maggie’s father didn’t see her as a daughter but only as his child. He saw no boundaries. Maggie escaped social influences and has proven repeatedly her business smarts, ability to lead, make tough decisions, and to win. In November 2020, the company hit a record-breaking $4 billion in annual sales, with Maggie at the helm. 

Women should not be discounted. Like men, they have the talent and desire to win and excel. They should not be stereotyped, for they have the potential to be the next leaders of the EMS industry—a game changer at the top.  

“I don't pretend there aren't biological differences, but I don't believe the desire for leadership is hardwired biology, not the desire to win or excel. I believe that it's socialization, that we're socializing our daughters to nurture and our boys to lead.”  —Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

Christine Davis is a woman leader in today's electronics industry. She founded and successfully ran an EMS company, CAMtek, for 20 years before selling to Zentech Bloomington.  

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2021

Her Voice: Game Changer at the Top

07-14-2021

Columnist Christine Davis went searching to find female executives who would teach her to lead and to be inspired by. She found one such inspiration in Maggie Hardy Knox.

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Her Voice: Advice From a Trailblazer

06-23-2021

We all have people we look up to—our heroes—but it’s not often that we get to meet them and learn from them. But that’s what happened to me when I met Bonnie Fena, a true trailblazer in EMS.

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Her Voice: Protect the Family Jewels

05-26-2021

There are many lessons to be learned in working with the bank to secure your business. Christine Davis shares some important truths about protecting your personal assets.

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Her Voice: Take Back the Wheel

05-12-2021

In manufacturing, there are always opportunities—it could be for new processes, new certifications, or the need for the next level of management skill set. Don’t ever hesitate to reach out for guidance, or to hire that next level manager or consultant necessary to grow your business. At the same time, don’t assume that next-level manager is on the same path as you. In trying to get that the next level, I have hired and fired a few top-level managers over the years. Whatever that next level was—whether trying to achieve ISO certification, moving into new headquarters, or helping to facilitate our growth as a company—I never hesitated to ask an expert. Many hires resulted in disappointment, not because they failed at the immediate task at hand, but because they were not the right fit in the long-term.

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Her Voice: Arbitration or Root Canal?

04-28-2021

As a business owner—and I’m sure anyone else in business will attest to this—it’s inevitable that at some point in time, you will be faced with a dispute in spite of having a contract in place and in spite of the clarity of the wording. Columnist Christine Davis explains.

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Her Voice: Twice as Much and Twice as Long

04-14-2021

When Christine Davis decided to start her own business, she came up with a pretty solid plan. But it needed an investor, and along the way, Christine gained some pretty valuable advice.

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Her Voice: I'm Not Betty Crocker

03-31-2021

It takes both reason and intuition to outfit a manufacturing facility, a point I was able to demonstrate as we prepared and moved into our new building several years ago.

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Her Voice: Standing My Ground

03-10-2021

Business was going well for CAMtek, and by the ninth year, it had grown significantly. Christine Davis found the perfect building to move into, but negotiating the lease and repairs took on a life of their own.

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Her Voice: Nothing to Lose and Everything to Win

02-24-2021

An opportunity to quote a new job went sideways, until CAMtek owner decided to make a bold move.

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Her Voice: It's Not About Money

02-10-2021

For the most part, business owners are very smart people, true risk takers with guts and wit; more importantly, they can recognize opportunity and act quickly. They are visionaries and that sets them apart from others. When I look back 20 years, I realize how naïve I was. But I had guts and wit, something I carry with me today. I was and still am a visionary.

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2020

Her Voice: Crashing Parties, and Breaking Barriers

12-22-2020

Welcome our newest columnist, Christine Davis, who founded and successfully ran CAMtek for 20 years. She introduces herself and what she hopes to share from many years of personal and professional experiences. Read on!

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