Honoring Women’s History Month in the Sign Industry

As we bid farewell to March, it’s fitting to pay tribute to Women’s History Month—especially in the sign industry. This isn’t just about commemorating the strides women have made or their indispensable role in shaping our communities and workplaces. It’s a call to ensure that these dialogues persist, ensuring the ongoing expansion of women’s involvement and impact in our collective future.

In sectors where women are still underrepresented, narratives of women breaking ground underscore how innovation thrives and progress flourishes when we prioritize and embrace diverse skill sets, varied perspectives, and inclusivity.

Traditionally dominated by men, the sign industry is awakening to the imperative of welcoming women. In 2019, the International Sign Association launched Women Leading the Industry (WLI), aimed at fostering leadership among women and enticing them to explore careers in signage and graphics. Since then, the organization has rolled out diverse resources, including online courses and forums dedicated to nurturing growth and dismantling barriers for women in this field. With the industry grappling with a labor shortage, expanding such initiatives is not just sensible but necessary.

Yet, the journey is far from over. Often new workforce data and associated success stories highlight the achievements of women in directorial roles or higher echelons.

While celebrating these exceptional journeys is crucial, it’s equally vital to acknowledge and encourage accomplishments across all levels. The sign industry’s entrepreneurial nature and structure of small business ownership offer fertile ground for championing success at every tier.

I recently sat down with Tiffany Hannah who currently serves as a territory manager here at Watchfire. We discussed her personal trajectory within the sign industry, tracing her evolution from a part-time employee to a business owner and eventually to her current role as a sales leader at Watchfire, a prominent nationwide supplier.

Women's History Month Sign Industry
Tiffany Hannah, territory manager at Watchfire.

Could you share a little bit about your journey into the sign industry?

Three decades ago, my family opened a vinyl shop. Initially disinterested, I only contributed during summers and weekends.

A decade later, circumstances changed, and I began helping in the office a few days a week, all while juggling the responsibilities of raising two young children.

Despite the hurdles of growing a small business alongside motherhood, my determination to expand and succeed propelled me to become a proud business owner.

Eventually, at forty, I shifted gears and decided it was time for a new chapter. That’s when I joined Watchfire as a territory manager.

What lessons and skills were most crucial to your successful transition from business owner to your role at Watchfire?

My journey at Watchfire mirrors past chapters of my life but with the new challenge of my sons entering early high school. Balancing extensive travel for work with the responsibilities of motherhood proved demanding, particularly in an industry where female representation was limited.

I would say that determination and perseverance have always been essential, and that proved to be true when I moved into my Watchfire role. Equally vital, however, were my skills in effective communication, multitasking, attention to detail, and critical thinking. These abilities, often strengths among women, are versatile assets applicable across any industry and have greatly enabled me to have a significant impact at Watchfire.

What guidance would you offer for thriving in a historically male-dominated field?

First and foremost, believe in yourself—it’s foundational. Confidence and assertiveness, cultivated through self-belief, are essential for earning respect.

Equally crucial is embracing discomfort and maintaining humility. Recognize that growth and change, though uncomfortable, are catalysts for progress.

Value the opportunity to learn from others, as it fosters growth and adaptability. Seek mentors or role models within the industry to provide guidance and support.

Continuous education is key. Utilize diverse resources, stay abreast of industry trends, and set achievable goals on a flexible scale to ensure ongoing personal and professional growth. Additionally, prioritize the development of strong technical skills to establish credibility.

Effective communication is paramount. Practice active listening, even in disagreement, and take moments to pause before responding, ensuring clarity and conciseness in your interactions.

What advice do you have for women contemplating a career in the sign industry?

There’s immense potential in this field to carve out your path. Believing in yourself and maintaining confidence in your abilities are paramount—no challenge is insurmountable with determination.

I highly recommend continuous self-assessment and embracing your authentic self. It’s crucial to identify and address those subtle behaviors that may hinder your progress and seek constructive solutions.

Women offer a creative and distinct perspective to our field, so maintaining a collaborative mindset is key to contributing uniquely to the process.

Reflecting on my own journey, I attribute my success to tenacity, a thirst for knowledge, and embracing the lessons learned each day. Each day is a fresh page in your story and a new opportunity to shape your path. Make it meaningful!

Women's History Month Sign Industry
Carol Wade, senior director of Marketing at Watchfire.

Tiffany’s journey mirrors that of numerous women who have skillfully managed their familial commitments while advancing their careers, and it epitomizes the type of achievement that leaders in the sign industry should actively strive to cultivate. This is a tribute to all women, regardless of their level or industry, who continue to break down barriers and use their unique skills to drive change and progress.

We celebrate their efforts and applaud their contributions in paving the way for future generations to have more choices and better opportunities.

Carol Wade has spent almost fifteen years at Watchfire and currently serves as senior director of marketing at Watchfire.