Women in the RV Industry - Meet Susan Carpenter
I am the manager for the aftermarket division for B&B Molders. We’re an injection molding company. And I’ve been here 2 years now. I started off in a family business, spent 25 years there, worked my way up from the bottom right up to the very top, and then I realized it wasn’t challenging enough and it was time to move on to something else. So I decided to spread my wings and go into a different part of the industry, and that’s where I landed here at B&B Molders. I’ve been here for 2 years, and the challenges have been great,
and it’s been a really rewarding career here so far.
So at B&B Molders, if you took your RV and you took a 360 on the outside of it, you would see a lot of B&B Molder products, everywhere from–you’d see your awning gutter spout. You’d see your water management system. You’d see your electrical cable hatches. You would then walk inside your RV. You would see some ceiling cool vents. You would see some floor registers. We really do have a touch in every aspect of your RV.
One of the things that makes me very prideful of B&B Molders is the amount of women that we have working here. We outnumber the men. We’re kind of that unicorn in the industry. That I would say we’re at least at 80-20%. And you don’t find that very often. And you also find diversity and inclusion here too. So all walks of life, race, color, creed, you name it, B&B employs it. So the–I would say we’re the role model of what we’re trying to create out there. When I started in this industry, it was incredible to walk onto a show floor and be one of the very few women that were there. And through my journey, it’s been incredible the growth that we’ve had through the 25 years. Now you’ll walk unto a show floor into our company, you’ll see many more women there. We’re still not quite there yet. We’re still about 20% below the national average. So we’re still what they consider male dominated, but these things don’t happen overnight.
RVWA was from inception actually created– the idea was from a man. It may be very surprising, but it really was. This guy was very forward thinking. His name was Frank Hugo Meyer. He was president of RVIA at the time, and he’d seen a need in this industry for a woman’s alliance. It had been tried before, but the timing wasn’t quite right. So he came to a bunch of us and said, “You know, you guys should do this.” So that’s really how the idea was born. And then we just got a group of women together, and we sat down at a RVDA function and said, “Okay, we want to do this. What does it look like? What’s the name? And let’s get this rolling.”
The launch of RV Women’s Alliance was actually in Salt Lake City 2 years ago, and it was a great event. We had a great turnout. It was wonderful. And we started doing a lot of networking events and trade shows and things like that.
And then COVID hit, and then we couldn’t network anymore. So we had to kind of take a step back and say, “Okay. Besides just networking, what else can the RV Women’s Alliance do for its members?” And that’s when we decided we’re going to flip an RV, and we called it Drab to Fab. And what that did is we brought members from around the country. We had over 80 volunteers so far from over 40 companies come and take this RV, strip it down, and is now rebuilding it. The RV Women’s Alliance has over 1200 members of over 400 companies nationwide, including Canada. That’s very impressive considering we’ve only been around for 2 years. And it just goes to show you the need that this industry had for something like this.
The future of the RV Women’s Alliance is really bright because we have a lot of things coming down the pathway, and one of those is our industry specific jobs board called the RV Career Highway. And what that’s going to do is it’s going to be an RV specific jobs board where
everybody in the RV industry can post jobs and also bring people from outside the RV industry looking to come into the industry, because nobody wakes up one morning and say, “Oh, I want to work in the RV industry.” Right? But it’s such an amazing place to work. And once you get here, you realize that, and you never want to leave. So part of our job is to tell people why come here. Why work here? Why work in the RV industry? It’s not just Elkhart, Indiana. It’s the whole nation. There’s dealerships, there’s manufacturers, there’s suppliers all across the country, and Canada.
The RV Women’s Alliance has four pillars that we stand by. It’s recruit, unite, inspire, and develop. We do not do anything if they do not fall within those four pillars. So some of the stuff that we want to be working on is education. We have programs coming down. We have a new education committee which is going to have two times a year right now of in-person or virtual learning opportunities. Every Friday we have something called the Coffee Lunch and Learn where you can sit in during your hour of lunch, or we record it so you can listen to it later. It’s about personal development. It’s about honing some of your skills. The subjects are all over the place, but they’re all available for our membership, free of charge. And that’s something that we are very passionate about, is bringing that educational piece to our members. I’ve had the honor and privilege to work with people through the Drab to Fab Project and through the RV Women’s Alliance, to work with women in all different sectors, everything from CEO, president, on down to the women that are in the shop floors, you know, putting walls up, you know, wiring electrical on these RVs. And it’s amazing the amount of talent and amount of different types of jobs that are available for every facet of any talent out there for women.
So as you’re making memories in your RV, I want you to stop and think about other women that contributed to the memories you’re making today. Everyone from the woman CEO to the woman line worker all had a part in it. And I’m incredibly proud to be a part of an industry where we can make this happen.