Women Leading the Industry: Finding Your Voice

By Ashley Bray

Following an exciting inaugural event at the 2019 ISA Sign Expo, Women Leading the Industry (WLI), an initiative launched by the International Sign Association in partnership with SBI, returned to the 2022 ISA International Sign Expo with a session focusing on effective approaches to business communication and leadership development.

The event kicked off with a panel that included Mandy Wisner, Southern Signs; Stacey Brown, Signarama – Silver Spring; John Yarger, North American Signs; and Lori Anderson, president & CEO of ISA with SBI Managing Editor Ashley Bray moderating.

Keynote Speaker Alexia Vernon of Step Into Your Moxie then led a session on finding your voice and using it to induce change and action.

The event wrapped up with a table activity inviting attendees to role-play a situation in which they are asking for something—using the newfound phrases, words, and subjects learned from Alexia.

Takeaways From The Event Include:

  • Imposter syndrome is defined as the internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be.
  • Despite a person’s title or successes, most everyone has dealt with imposter syndrome at one point in their careers.
  • Ways to combat imposter syndrome include: journaling, identifying the negative thoughts and labeling them, remembering examples of times when you were competent and effective, etc.
  • It’s important for male coworkers and bosses to ensure that women have a voice—especially in areas where they are the expert or the lead.
  • When using your voice to produce change, you will be more effective if you focus on making your argument persuasive to the person you are trying to convince. Speak to personal motivators like money and time and use words/phrases like “accelerate/increase,” “ease,” and “what I want for you is” to lead people to take action.

“The energy in the room was infectious,” says SBI Managing Editor Ashley Bray. “It’s so important to take time to discuss topics, like communicating effectively, that don’t typically get a lot of attention. I think everyone walked away with a new tool, idea, or a renewed sense of confidence for how to best communicate in the workplace and everyday life.”

SBI wanted to keep the conversation going, so we asked women across the sign industry for their thoughts on imposter syndrome, effective communication, and more.

Lori Anderson, President/CEO, ISALori Anderson ISA women leading the industry

What did you take away from the 2022 WLI event at the ISA Sign Expo?

Each WLI event highlights the need for women to come together—with male allies—to discuss the unique circumstances women experience in the workplace. With the numerous challenges facing today’s workforce, it is important for sign and graphics companies to be welcoming spaces that provide exciting career opportunities for all. The more we learn how our language or actions can help or hinder the industry from being perceived as a welcoming environment, the better we all will be.

Coming together at the 2022 ISA International Sign Expo reinforced how sharing our individual experiences can help us better embrace gender, cultural, and ethnic diversity and become stronger as a result.


women leading the industry amanda king

Amanda King, People and Culture Leader, Poblocki Sign Company

Do you have any advice for speaking up at work?

You are your best advocate, and your voice will never be heard unless you speak up. There will be many uncomfortable or difficult conversations throughout your career, but the more you prepare and practice, the easier it will get. Whether it’s expressing a personal opinion or a topic you’ve researched, remember that you are the smartest person in the room on that subject.

If you will be presenting, lean on someone you trust to give you feedback or take a video of yourself to see how you do. When I get nervous, my Midwestern accent gets ten times stronger. Learn to embrace your quirks—knowing that my accent is the probably the worst thing that’s going to happen actually puts me at ease.

Take time to build relationships with people; it’s significantly easier to connect with someone when you can relate to them as a person. Each person has their own way of handling different situations, so it helps to know your audience, especially when determining the right approach for certain conversations. For example, if the person you want to speak with needs their coffee first thing in the morning, then set up the discussion for mid-morning or later in the day.


women leading the industry mandy wisnerMandy Wisner, Vice President, Southern Signs, Inc., Strawberry Plains, Tennessee

Have you experienced imposter syndrome in your career? How do you deal with it?

I think we all have faced imposter syndrome even before we knew the phrase. Back in the day, we said, “fake it ’til you make it.” We need to rethink this.

It all comes down to confidence in yourself and your ability to do the job you have been assigned. The best way to overcome this is by educating yourself. Whether it’s researching, self-help books, YouTube, etc.—it’s never been easier to have knowledge at our fingertips. Knowledge is power.


tabitha bowen women leading the industryTabitha Bowen, Client Service Specialist, All-Right Sign, Steger, Illinois

Any advice or tips for speaking up at work?

I once told a mentor that I felt people/customers didn’t take me seriously in this industry. He asked me a few follow-up questions, which led us to conclude I was more inward focused and was only concerned about what they thought of me. I was engrossed in how they perceived me. I was living in my own head and worried only about myself.

From that conversation, I learned a few things: I need to stop focusing on myself and how uncomfortable I feel. Rather I need to focus on the audience/customer. Ask thoughtful questions, understand their perspectives, and find out their pain points. I may not know everything, but I need to believe that I am an expert in my own right—no one else has my unique experiences and background. I deserve to be heard because my thoughts have value. Finally, I need to educate myself on the topic at hand or the industry. Knowledge is key.


women leading the industry stacey brown

Stacey Brown, Chief Image Builder, Signarama, Silver Spring, Maryland

Have you experienced imposter syndrome in your career? How do you deal with it?

I am used to being the only—or one of the only—over my lifetime, so over time, I have developed my formula for the times when I might second guess myself:

Acknowledge that my feelings are valid but don’t stay there. Feelings are not facts. The facts are that I am capable and deserve everything that is coming my way.

If I have a gap in terms of knowledge, etc., I seek out ways to improve while recognizing that everyone else has gaps too. This competence will help create confidence.

I keep a running list of my accomplishments or challenges I have overcome with a focus on what I did and what impact it had. When in doubt, I know I have what it takes and do it again.

I create a tribe of support. I surround myself with people who provide support, guidance, and most importantly—the truth!


Mary Lou Goehrung women leading the industry

Mary Lou Goehrung, Owner, Hunt Graphics, Inc., d/b/a Signs By

Tomorrow – Rockville, Maryland

Do you have any advice for speaking up at work?

Self-confidence is the best attribute any person can have in any business. Believing in yourself has nothing to do with gender. Speaking up for yourself, speaking up for what is right, [and] speaking up for needed changes should be your number-one priority always.

When I started in the sign industry in 1992, there were few women for sure. I always felt like one of the sign gang at meetings, conventions, and trade shows. I was always welcomed, included, and definitely respected. Now I am revered for my accomplishments. https://www.signshop.com/installation/service-equipment/2020-alliance-franchise-brands-poty-rappel/ I never experienced any resistance or hesitancy for using my services from potential clients. I believe it all circles back to building, having, and showing self-confidence. There is no need for labeling and dividing ever, anywhere.


women leading the industry veronica d'silvaVeronica D’Silva, President, Allegra Marketing Print Mail – Toronto

What are some of the top communication challenges you have encountered? How have you overcome them?

I use a collaborative approach to problem solving on projects—it has helped my team find creative and efficient solutions in our workplace. I am confident in the services and products we offer, and I am very capable of producing a high-quality product. We leverage our expertise to communicate with our clients and team—that helps us overcome any communication challenges.


sharon rayner women leading the industry

Sharon Rayner, Owner, Minuteman Press, Houston, Texas

Do you have any advice for other women-owned sign and print shops when it comes to encountering hesitancy or resistance from potential clients?

Be the best business in your community. I have no doubt that we are the best in Houston, https://www.signshop.com/wli/franchise-owner-houstons-top-businesswomen/ and our clients list proves this. New customers call us because of our reputation. They do not care about who owns the business; they care about results. I’ve always worked in male-dominant industries, [and] I’ve never been afraid to give my opinion or perspective, if I believe that it will add to the conversation, the project, or the business.