Celebrating Women in the Flexo Industry

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As Women’s History Month comes to a close, we wanted to take the time to reflect on some of the amazing women that make up the flexographic industry: from student mentees to seasoned flexographers.

From Jean Engelke, FTA hall of famer and current member of Women of Flexo: 

How did you get involved in the FTA?
“I got involved with the industry while attending Western Michigan University. I came from a litho background and didn’t know anything about flexo. I was introduced to flexo through coursework and hands-on labs. As a college student on a strict budget I took advantage of applying for FTA Scholarships. The scholarships are a great way to keep engaged with the industry, get exposure to technology and see the opportunities the FTA has to offer. Student membership is FREE!”

How have you seen the role of women evolve in the FTA while you have been a participant?
“When I first started out in the industry there were very few women. However, early on there were a few strong women that paved the way for all of us. They were entrepreneurs, engineers, business owners and educators. They led by example and proved that women had the skills needed to succeed in the industry and, more importantly, were resilient and innovative which helped drive the technology forward. Today we are seeing many more women in the industry and the establishment of Women Of Flexo really helps highlight the immense talent they bring to the game.”

What one piece of advice would you give any woman in Flexo just starting out that you wish you knew then?
First and foremost is that you are responsible for your own destiny. This is a dynamic, fast paced industry. Get to know the many facets of the industry through the FTA membernars, webinars, conferences and Forum. We are a tight knit community that seeks to provide opportunities and drive results. I have been fortunate to work in many functions of the industry as my career developed. If you are looking for career advancement or training opportunities let your management know. If you want to branch out into different segments, definitely network! The FTA is a great place to do that and WOF has a very popular mentorship program. This industry is always looking to develop talent to provide our customers with the products and services they have come to expect. Your career is in front of you and we’re glad you are here!”

From Katie Graham, Regional Marketing & Communications Manager at BOBST and a current member of Women of Flexo:

“Seeing companies (like BOBST) rally around women and seeing other women (like the Women of Flexo) working to empower each other, I am reminded that our time in this industry is not just about us. What paths will I leave for future print and packaging marketers? We can all make a difference for those coming after us!”

From Laura Zabel, Clemson student and Women of Flexo student mentee: 

As a young woman of flexo, how do you perceive the role of women in the flexo industry?
“I am overjoyed to see women breaking into this male-dominated field. Flexography has historically been run by the ideas and opinions of men, and has had little gender diversity. Including women in this important process can lead us to discover new, innovative ways to print as it allows us to collaborate and share ideas on a more diverse and inclusive scale.”

Why did you choose a flexo internship? How does it make you feel to get hands-on in the lab?
“I chose a flexo internship because I wanted to get more hands-on in the printing aspect of my program – I feel very comfortable designing, and wanted to adventure outside of my comfort zone. As a Graphic Communications major at Clemson University I have received an exceptional amount of knowledge about the flexo process, but the most experience I had working on the press was assisting my professors with small classroom press runs. Now, after my internship, I have experience assisting large companies with press runs, making and mounting plates, cleaning the press after press runs, printing with a variety of inks, printing with a variety of plates, etc. I have also worked on a variety of different flexo presses due to my internship experience, which has given me insight into how large and small presses operate.”

Do you have any misc thoughts on women breaking into this traditionally male-dominated industry?
“I love that women are breaking into this industry – as a Graphic Communications student, I was nervous that all of my career paths would be male-dominated. Being the only woman in a male-dominated field means that you’re more likely to be overlooked and not taken seriously, however if a surge of women are entering the field we are able to look out for each other and build each other up. We are not able to be overlooked when our voices are getting louder and louder! Happy Women’s History Month!”

From Jennye Scott, Vice President Global Creative Services at Berry Global, Inc. and current member of Women of Flexo:

“I oversee a group of fantastic pre-press experts in the Flexo industry and we supply world class separations and printing plates to many Berry Global locations around the US.”

From Christina Lim-Kouzi, MBA and BBA: 

Currently enrolled in the Department of Graphic Arts with Flexography Concentration at Central Piedmont Community College, Harper Campus. Holding both an MBA and a BBA, Christina now wants to build on these degrees to pursue a career in the Flexo Industry. She is very interested in learning how to best print effectively/efficiently using a flexographic press to produce high quality outputs such as packaging labels, tags, eye-catching artwork to grab attention of potential buyers.

From Arleen Neustein, first female FTA hall of famer: 

“I’ve been involved in the flexographic industry since back in the days when it wasn’t even considered an industry. If you could read what you printed you were considered a very good flexo printer. That goes back to the early 60’s, but before that I was actually doing design work for the industry. It was a family business and we had two and three color presses, 18-inches wide and 24-inches wide and I was doing design work, meaning I would design a bakers head [logo] for a little Italian bakery that we were printing combination bags for. 

The business was actually being run by my mother, so she’s actually, in my family, the first woman in the industry. At that time there were no women in the industry unless you were the spouse of a man who was in the industry. Now I would say more than half of the industry are women and especially strong in sales. I feel that women are very technically oriented and very detail oriented and doing an excellent job and that’s why we’ve been successful in invading the industry the way we have. 

I think other than Catherine Harper, who was in the industry probably as long as I was, I don’t think there were women in the industry, but we were starting to be a growing force and as an independent, small printing company and converter I felt the FTA was my resource to learn how the big guys do it: what was the technology, what was the information that was available to the industry? And so I made sure that I was highly involved in the FTA so that I got the feedback from it. And I always felt that no matter how hard I worked to do things for the FTA, I got back more than what I put in. 

When I received the [hall of fame] award it was an exciting time and it was very rewarding for me. And of course when I stood up there and I said “first woman” all of the women that were now in the audience that hadn’t been there before got up there and cheered! So we all felt good about it. 

The quality of print has so far exceeded anything that I ever thought it would be. It’s definitely an industry that you want to be in, and it’s a growing industry, and I think that women are going to be playing more and more of an active role in it, I think that women will be playing larger and larger roles in running companies and directing the requirements for what flexo will be in the future. 

We now have, I think, three [women] that are hall of famers and I expect to see more. Who knows? They may be running the FTA before we even finish this conversation.”

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