Guest Post by Anthony Hansen, Director of Marketing, Installation Specialists, Inc. (ISI)

It is no secret that women are a driving force behind the creative design and successful appointment of commercial interiors. When it comes to field work, however, they are largely absent in the industry they have formed in their likeness.

From its founding in 1973, Installation Specialists, Inc. (ISI) recognized the value of the female perspective. Women have historically held critical, structural roles within the company and today oversee all project coordination, product receiving, and project management functions. Installation crews aside, women comprise 40 percent of the company’s workforce today.

In view of Women’s History Month, here’s a look at three team members who consistently raise the bar above competitive reach, and who have reframed the male typecast plaguing field work within the industry: Catherine Senchuk, Jennifer Schott, and Jennifer Gremo.

Catherine Senchuk

Cathy joined ISI over 28 years ago and has been formative in the company’s solid reputation and expansion. She was (and continues to be) a critical advisor in the development of ISI’s communication protocols, proprietary operating systems, reporting functions, and strategic growth into new vertical markets.

With longstanding tenure, she helps ISI remain agile and flex to the ever‐changing world of commercial interiors. Her deep understanding of the industry’s complexities commands respect from both field staff and upstream partners. As the logistical backbone of the ISI operation, Cathy oversees project coordination, receiving, scheduling, and fleet deployment teams.

Her management style consistently drives home that it takes a village to thrive in business. Much to her credit, ISI continues its long history of valuing the different viewpoints that men and women bring to the industry.

Jennifer Schott and Jennifer Gremo

“The Jens” – Jen Schott and Jen Gremo – have worked in commercial interiors for over 25 years. Schott previously served as a major manufacturer’s architectural wall specialist and dealer trainer. Gremo’s capacity was that of designer and project manager at both architectural and dealer level companies. Over the decades, projects continuously called for collaborations between each of their companies and ISI. The respect they experienced by both ISI field and office staff was a far cry from others in the industry.

Schott and Gremo are the only installation project management team in the Midwest with both dealer and manufacturer experience. Because they come from dealer/manufacturer backgrounds, their ability to problem solve furniture and field dilemmas is unique. They are versed in manufacturer parts, pieces, and fabrication techniques and inherently understand the intent behind dealer typicals and layouts.

“The Jens” are on a mission to push their inside‐out knowledge from the creative and field sides back to the industry, and continuously coach partners on installation drawing best practices, appropriate phasing and tagging for efficiency in the field, and site considerations such as elevator size and dock access.

Progress Requires Perseverance

While there has been an uptick in female representation in the industry, few are present at site construction meetings and decision‐making roundtables. The numbers clearly show a disproportionate number of women on the field side of commercial interiors (and likewise a disproportionate number of men on the creative/design side).

It is with great intent, therefore, that Cathy and the Jens have long mentored women trying to bridge that gap. The crossover from design and manufacturing worlds to installation or other trades can be very much seamless with a strong support system. They have surrounded themselves with teams that realize the value women bring to ALL roles. They have also sought employers, like ISI, that are champions for equality without bias.

Anthony Hansen is Director of Marketing at Installation Specialists, Inc. (ISI), Chicago’s largest commercial interiors installation company.