Women Tell How They Break Through Business Barriers

BOARDMAN, Ohio – Women still face many unwritten barriers in the business world, said participants in a Business Journal roundtable, whether receiving credit due, securing funding or finding a work-life balance.

“There are just some people that don’t believe in what you do or your ability because you are a woman. So I had to fight a lot,” Candys Mayo said. “I learned to fight with my thought process and how I approach things. … With that in mind, I did decide to start my own company.”

Mayo owns Quinn Engineering & Employment Network LLC – acronym for Queen-Ohio — an engineering services and support company. She has been an engineering designer for more than 16 years and opened Queen-Ohio in 2015.

Barriers Mayo faces include being an African-American woman in the engineering industry. She decided to become an entrepreneur after male colleagues at other jobs claimed credit for her ideas and she thought, “You know what? I think I could do this on my own.

“At the end of the day, this is what I do for a living. I welcome the barriers and the problems in the uphill battle because I couldn’t see myself doing anything else,” Mayo said.

The roundtable took place Aug. 1 at the Holiday Inn Boardman with the transcript from the event to be published Aug. 15 in The Business Journal’s MidAugust print edition.

In addition to Mayo, participants were Evon Ashby, owner of Carriage House Builders; Barb Ewing, CEO of the Youngstown Business Incubator; JoAnn LaGuardia, president of LM Cases; Betty Jo Licata, dean of the Williamson College of Business at Youngstown State University; Regina Mitchell, president of Warren Fabricating and Machining Corp.; Sarra Mohn, co-owner of Jet Creative; Dawn Ochman, president and owner of Dawn Inc.; Shelley Taylor Odille, president of Paige & Byrnes Insurance; and Jessica Seminara-Tomczyk, chief operating officer of Classico Foods.

Ashby, in the construction business 20 years, started her own company in February. She hasn’t dealt with lenders much, she said, because she’s afraid of being turned down just because she’s a woman. “I think I’ll be laughed at because people don’t see me as owning a construction company,” she said.

“Women often are not taken seriously,” Mohn agreed. “I can see that at the bank level. … I’ve seen it happen where they brought great full business plans and a great credit score and have been turned down.”

When it comes to securing a line of credit, “Never accept no,” advised Ochman of Dawn Inc., a federal construction contractor. Ochman has been in the business 24 years. After being told “no” by the first bank where she sought credit, she immediately went to the bank across the street.

“There are obstacles, but you just need to learn to plow through them,” Ochman said.

For business decisions and planning, a woman often isn’t perceived as the person who makes the decisions, even when she’s the owner, roundtable participants said.

Mitchell co-owns Warren Fabricating and Machining Corp with her brother. Whenever bankers call the company, she related, they ask for her brother instead, even though the siblings make the financial decisions together.

The same thing happens to LaGuardia, sole owner of her company, LM Cases. When someone calls, he asks for her husband, who in turn tells them to talk to LaGuardia.

Roundtable participants agreed women are still the primary caregivers in the family, but it’s becoming more common for women to work full-time, have children and still have quality time at home.

“I don’t think my priority of being a good mother should be undermined by being a good business woman,” said Seminara-Tomczyk, chief operating officer of Classico Foods, which owns the Pizza Joe’s franchise. Seminara-Tomczyk has two daughters, ages 6 and 7.

Being a mother and a woman in business will benefit her daughters because they have a role model to teach them the importance of having good credit and good decision-making, she said.

“We’re important role models for girls, but we are also important role models for boys,” Mayo from Queen-Ohio added. Being a role model for one’s son affects how they will interact with women when they grow up, she said.

“Women are persevering more and more and have the support of the people in their family more than it used to be,” Mohn of Jet Creative said, who sees it as more acceptable today for women to manage business and home-life.

“Instead of being guilty for going to work, they’re very proud of their work and their children are proud of them for their work,” she said.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.