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In an effort to provide a networking forum for women working in the pool and spa industry, SWIMN (Supporting Women Industry-Wide, Mentors and Networking) will hold its third annual reception at the PSP Expo on Tuesday, Oct. 30.
An independent networking group, SWIMN was established by Pam Vinje, CEO of digital marketing firm Small Screen Producer and former director of social media, marketing and events for APSP. Vinje established SWIMN with several close female associates she met during her years with the association.
"When I was working with APSP on a national level, I had an opportunity to work with a bunch of great ladies," she says. "I have great builder girlfriends, as well as those who work in service, retail and for manufacturers — amazing women who work in all aspects of the industry."
Because men have traditionally outnumbered women in the pool and spa industry, Vinje and her like-minded friends recognized the need for a forum where women can network and also mentor others coming into the industry.
"We started noticing a shift in demographics. More and more women are taking over family businesses from men who are retiring, and others are coming into the industry and working in roles that have traditionally been held by men," she explains. "We saw a need for women in the industry to build relationships face to face. These days it can be tough to make those connections, so we wanted help women in our industry find each other, develop relationships and ultimately help each other as they develop their careers."
This year's SWIMN event will feature keynote speaker Heidi J. Ellsworth, a professional from the roofing industry since 1993. She is also founder and past chair of National Women in Roofing and an advocate for diversity within that industry, which has likewise been seeing a demographic shift toward greater gender equality.
"We wanted to meet Heidi and invite her in so we can learn about how women have worked together in the roofing industry," Vinje explains. "There are a lot of opportunities to grow and learn from the way it's been done in other industries that have traditionally been dominated by men."
Vinje says response to the past two SWIMN gatherings has been strong, with all indications that this year's event will have an even better showing. Her hope is that the event serves to bring women together who will continue their relationships on their own going forward.
"We're not trying to be an association, but just a loosely knit networking group," she says. "We hope that women in this industry can find each other and mentor women coming into the industry and ultimately support each other. That's the goal."
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