The very first day Judie Cooper began her job as director of craft services at the Smithsonian Institution, a man walked into her office and told her he wouldn’t work for her because she was a woman and didn’t know what she was talking about.
“It wasn’t even 7:30 in the morning yet,” recalled Cooper, who is now associate director of organizational development for the office of facilities management and reliability at the Smithsonian. “As a woman, you realize this is a pivotal moment.”
Cooper invited the man to sit down and asked him what he was looking for in his job. He said that he wanted respect, and for others to know the people in crafts services are experts who are committed to their jobs. Cooper replied she also wanted others to realize that craft services workers are the go-to people. “I told him, ‘I think we’ve come to our first agreement,’” Cooper said.
Years later, after the man retired from the Smithsonian, he sought Cooper out and apologized. He told her he hadn’t realized how much she cared about the Smithsonian and how well she would lead her employees. “We understood each other,” Cooper said.
Although not all women in the cleaning, housekeeping, and facilities management industries have encountered such blatant prejudice, many have noticed subtle judgement. Fortunately, women are becoming a much more common site in these industries, as evidenced by Cooper and four other women profiled in the above slideshow. All came into the industries through different paths, but all have flourished in their careers.
Take a look and watch the slideshow to learn their secrets to success.