Her Voice: The Intractable Ceiling

It has not been easy to be a woman-owned business in the electronics industry. Most people assume that my company was handed down to me by my father. That’s far from the case. My desire to start CAMtek from scratch came about after a series of events that left me bewildered and frustrated. I realized people thought that because of my gender, I didn’t have a voice. Hitting a glass ceiling more than once led to my frustration. It was easy for me to step into the highest accounting position within a company, but to get past that was taboo. 

In 2000, I started CAMtek Inc., an electronics manufacturing services provider of printed circuit board assembly and other electro-mechanical devices serving agriculture, military, aerospace, and large equipment manufacturers.  Little did I know that I didn’t fit the stereotype of a business owner in this industry, and that the hurdles I had to jump over were high—much higher than I had ever imagined.  With my business plan in hand, I met with three different banks; each one turned me down. The story was always the same: bring me sales, then I’ll loan you money; or bring your husband to co-sign. When I finally got a loan (without my husband’s help), I found a warehouse in which to set up shop. My landlord at the time was generous and loaned me the money to build an office area inside the shop while also telling me I wouldn’t make it past two years. What did he know that I didn’t?  

The stereotype that only a man can run a business was blatantly and repeatedly put in front of my face, especially in the early years of CAMtek. When I met with a new customer, I would take my production manager (a man) with me. The customer almost always assumed my production manager was the owner, not me. When I certified CAMtek as a WBE (Woman Business Enterprise) customers assumed it was a small “ma and pop” type of shop—because I was a woman. It took me seven years of owning the business to break that preconception and win a multi-million-dollar military contract. Even after doing business with Caterpillar for 20 years, they still considered me a small company and limited the size of their orders just because of the WBE certification. This was even after I expanded and moved into a 225,000-square-foot facility. I remember renovating that building, a multi-million-dollar project that I was able to finance through the SBA, and dealing with contractors who thought that because of my gender, I must have been the secretary. I felt I did not get the respect I deserved, so I learned how to speak up.  

I learned a lot during 20 years of running CAMtek. Some things I learned the hard way, mostly because I had no female colleagues. I was actively involved with the IPC but still I was the only woman among the hundred men who came from all parts of the globe to meet for the EMS meetings as part of IPC APEX EXPO. I spent 20 years in the electronics industry collaborating with men, and always wishing I had female counterparts. I never really saw this as a glass ceiling until I sold my company.  

An equity firm familiar with the electronics industry bought my company. Their vision aligned with mine and CAMtek became part of their portfolio of EMS companies focused on servicing mission critical defense programs. I was to stay on as the VP and general manager and collaborate with the C-suite executive team to strategize growth. The later part never came to fruition. You see, it was made up of all men and for the first time in 20 years, I recognized that glass ceiling—it was intractable.    

It was then that I realized I had no voice, like so many years ago when I was an accountant helping companies grow. Now I can see the glass ceilings that limited me back then, and that I had to start my own company to break through those ceilings. What’s more astonishing to me is that even now after 20 years, glass ceilings still exist today. 

I believe that the challenges I’ve overcome as a woman in the electronics industry, and the success I have achieved with my own company, gives me the experience, business sense, and empathy of the biases and challenges that impact diversity. It is when we break through these barriers of stereotype biases that we can stand tall and be proud of our achievements. CAMtek and “Her Voice” are two of my achievements that have made a difference in my community and the electronics industry. There are many more barriers to break. The EMS industry needs to wake up. They are missing out on the next generation of inspiring women leaders. It’s time to break that stereotype bias—the one that says only men can be at the top of our industry. It’s time to break the glass ceiling. 

“Many women have been successful at breaking the glass ceiling only to find a layer of men.”

- Jane Harman- former U.S. Representative for California’s 36th congressional district

Christine Davis-Pryczynski, CPA and EMS specialist, is one of the leading women in electronics today. She started and successfully ran CAMtek, Inc. for 20 years.

Back

2021

Her Voice: The Intractable Ceiling

08-04-2021

It has not been easy to be a woman owned business in the electronics industry. Most people assume that my company was handed down to me by my father. That’s far from the case. My desire to start CAMtek from scratch came about after a series of events that left me bewildered and frustrated.

View Story

Her Voice: Game Changer at the Top

07-14-2021

Columnist Christine Davis went searching to find female executives who would teach her to lead and to be inspired by. She found one such inspiration in Maggie Hardy Knox.

View Story

Her Voice: Advice From a Trailblazer

06-23-2021

We all have people we look up to—our heroes—but it’s not often that we get to meet them and learn from them. But that’s what happened to me when I met Bonnie Fena, a true trailblazer in EMS.

View Story

Her Voice: Protect the Family Jewels

05-26-2021

There are many lessons to be learned in working with the bank to secure your business. Christine Davis shares some important truths about protecting your personal assets.

View Story

Her Voice: Take Back the Wheel

05-12-2021

In manufacturing, there are always opportunities—it could be for new processes, new certifications, or the need for the next level of management skill set. Don’t ever hesitate to reach out for guidance, or to hire that next level manager or consultant necessary to grow your business. At the same time, don’t assume that next-level manager is on the same path as you. In trying to get that the next level, I have hired and fired a few top-level managers over the years. Whatever that next level was—whether trying to achieve ISO certification, moving into new headquarters, or helping to facilitate our growth as a company—I never hesitated to ask an expert. Many hires resulted in disappointment, not because they failed at the immediate task at hand, but because they were not the right fit in the long-term.

View Story

Her Voice: Arbitration or Root Canal?

04-28-2021

As a business owner—and I’m sure anyone else in business will attest to this—it’s inevitable that at some point in time, you will be faced with a dispute in spite of having a contract in place and in spite of the clarity of the wording. Columnist Christine Davis explains.

View Story

Her Voice: Twice as Much and Twice as Long

04-14-2021

When Christine Davis decided to start her own business, she came up with a pretty solid plan. But it needed an investor, and along the way, Christine gained some pretty valuable advice.

View Story

Her Voice: I'm Not Betty Crocker

03-31-2021

It takes both reason and intuition to outfit a manufacturing facility, a point I was able to demonstrate as we prepared and moved into our new building several years ago.

View Story

Her Voice: Standing My Ground

03-10-2021

Business was going well for CAMtek, and by the ninth year, it had grown significantly. Christine Davis found the perfect building to move into, but negotiating the lease and repairs took on a life of their own.

View Story

Her Voice: Nothing to Lose and Everything to Win

02-24-2021

An opportunity to quote a new job went sideways, until CAMtek owner decided to make a bold move.

View Story
Back

2020

Her Voice: Crashing Parties, and Breaking Barriers

12-22-2020

Welcome our newest columnist, Christine Davis, who founded and successfully ran CAMtek for 20 years. She introduces herself and what she hopes to share from many years of personal and professional experiences. Read on!

View Story
Copyright © 2021 I-Connect007. All rights reserved.