Career Advice >> Browse Articles >> Workplace Issues


How to Establish Yourself in a Male-Dominated Field

How to Establish Yourself in a Male-Dominated Field

Elizabeth Wilson |

Publishing and Printing

Stacey Kannenberg is founder and CEO of Cedar Valley Publishing and principal of Mom Central Consulting, a marketing company targeting moms. She says she was shocked when she became a publisher and began encountering resistance from “the male-dominated world of printing.”

“I never would have believed that the good ol’ boys network was still so alive and well in [the new century],” Kannenberg says.

After 14 years of working in the industry, she has learned to choose her battles. She also has parted ways with those who didn’t give her the respect she deserved.

One fight she faced was having printer after printer tell her, “You don’t want to do that” every time she requested that a children’s book be made out of durable material to outlast the ravages of little hands. Her response was to be persistent and insist that her requests be met.

Networking has been key to her success. Her network has grown to more than 500 authors, 100 publishers, 1,500 mom-owned businesses and 600 bloggers, a vast majority of whom are women.

“Women are natural problem solvers who love to share and help. I would not be where I am today without each and every one of them,” she says.

The most important lesson Kannenberg learned is to stick up for herself and not be bullied. She cites the following as an example of how to deal with sexist comments: Kannenberg received a shipment where the majority of books had at least one loose page. She called the printer and asked for the CEO, thinking he could help fix the problem.

“He said, ’Listen here, little girl, I stand behind the quality of that shipment and I am 100 percent confident that we are within the standards for printing accuracy, and we will not be reprinting that press run.”

Her reply: “Have you seen the books?”

His reply: “I don’t need to because I stand behind my workers and the quality of their work.”

That’s when Kannenberg took it up a notch: “I suggest you go out on the production line, open one of my books and, if the telephone page of every book does not fall out, then you don’t need to call me back to apologize. But you will be reprinting those books, or you will be hearing from my attorney.”

She never got an apology, but the books were reprinted.

Kannenberg says she learned to please herself and her customers rather than try to please everyone. She also advises: Don’t be so quick to blame yourself if you’re struggling to overcome obstacles in your work life.

“I thought it was me. It wasn’t.”

However, it wasn’t until she began talking to her network of publishers who deal with printers that she realized that information is power. “They gave me the information I needed to go back to my various printers and say, ‘Hey, you cut corners. I talked to the following printers, and here is what they think you did.’ I referenced printers that they know and trust, and that gave me credibility.”

Kannenberg’s final recommendation is to arm yourself with valuable information and become a trusted expert in your field. “Be willing to pick your battles, but never let the quality of your work suffer. Be willing to exceed customer expectations and, in the printing industry, your reputation will grow. In fact, call me, as I would love to work with a woman printer.”