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The expanding impact of women in the tile industry

Writing this story each year is a challenge. Why? Because there are so many women in our industry now – in a range of roles at every level – that it is difficult to choose who to feature!
But choose we did, and we introduce you to four prominent women in our industry, from NTCA’s newest Technical Trainer, to a marketing director of a leading setting materials company, to the executive director of The TileWorks in Doylestown, Pa., to a decorated distributor recently inducted into the CTDA Hall of Fame. 
These women have opportunities that past generations of women may not have enjoyed – AND they are serving as role models and trail blazers for women pondering their career paths today. Let’s meet them and bask in their wisdom and accomplishments! – Lesley Goddin

Kate Koerber

NTCA Technical Trainer

Kate Koerber got started in tile running a small home improvement company with her now ex-husband. A builder client showed them how to install tile – not completely accurately. Koerber had a hunger for learning the correct methods and took some classes at Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) with Dave Gobis back in 2000. 

“I really liked the process of tile and being able to see the finished product,” she said. “A lot of the building trades don’t really have this opportunity.”

She brought her inherently creative approach to the work, her affability with customers and physical strength that was honed through her home improvement work. After a time away from tiling she had to re-acquaint herself with the trade, build her physical strength, and learn about all the new products that had entered the market. 

Koerber is one of the newest NTCA Technical Trainers.

Koerber loves the artistry in tile. “Tile has such a creative element,” she said. “There are so many things that can be done from mosaic murals to large format tiles!”

Koerber is just starting this year with NTCA as a Technical Trainer, traveling to bring standards-based training and education to tile setters around the country. “I am proud to be and do well in a male-dominated industry and certainly proud and grateful to be part of NTCA now,” she added.

Bouchard at a Johns Manville GoBoard contractor event.

Johns Manville, GoBoard, Marketing Manager

Shawna Bouchard was introduced to the industry while working on a joint build project between a tiny-house-on-wheels manufacturer and Johns Manville (JM). She investigated how JM’s lightweight sheathing could benefit a traditionally-built wooden house RV. The project opened a door for her to join Johns Manville in marketing in the Innovation group of corporate research and development. 

Bouchard parlayed creative skills for producing marketing media and collateral, and she incorporated knowledge, education and training in marketing technology disciplines on her path to her position as GoBoard’s Senior Marketing Specialist.

Bouchard representing GoBoard at a trade show.

A particular characteristic she brings to her position is adaptability, allowing her to move out of her comfort zone intentionally, “setting goals for myself and then seeking the education or training required to advance in my field,” she said. She rises to the occasion when encountering challenges – such as her task to build awareness and drive demand around a brand product that was her challenge when she entered this industry. Along the way, she has discovered and delighted in the “creative spirit of tile people,” she said. “I also love their desire to see their trade continue to provide beautifully-finished spaces to buildings and homes.”

She credits social media with encouraging more women tile setters to share their work, and network with other tradespeople. 

“Social media also has a ‘monkey see, monkey do’ quality to it,” she added. “If there’s a woman out there asking herself what she could do for a living rather than go to college – or perhaps she is looking to leave a desk job – and she scrolls by another woman setting tile, it could give her the courage to try it, and possibly excel in it. Mentorship is the key to better pave the way for more women in the industry. Even though a woman gets into setting tile, it’s important for that woman to have other women around her who are qualified to offer insights and impart their knowledge gained through their own wealth of experience.”

And she urged women to “wear reasonable PPE,” and to thoroughly understand a product from a building science perspective. “Having extensive product knowledge as well as methods and standards knowledge will give you a considerable edge over the majority of men in the industry,” she said. 

Executive Director, TileWorks of Bucks County 

Katia McGuirk with the historic fireplace at The TileWorks. Below is one of McGuirk’s own colorful and detailed handmade tile creations.

Katia McGuirk has been a tile maker in her own right for over 30 years at Katia Tiles (www.katiatiles.com). In 2021, she stepped into a new and challenging role as the Executive Director of the TileWorks of Bucks County – aka the historic Moravian Pottery and Tile Works in Doylestown, Pa., established by Henry Chapman Mercer in the early 1900s. She has worked hard, smart, and creatively to expand the visibility of the TileWorks (the tileworks.org) through programs, workshops, music and community events, growing and adding new dimensions to the annual TileFest that takes place each May – always seeking to strengthen the bridge between art and industry. 

Hailing from a farm family of 15, she experienced gender equality, learned to navigate sibling competition, and was influenced by a family history of strong civic and political leaders. Her dad was “the original DIY guy” and his motto was “go big or go home!” 

After attending the Rhode Island School of Design, she made tiles and renovated houses in Newport, R.I., growing her business by designing, manufacturing and installing handmade art tile nationally. Her experiences as an artist in residence and teacher enabled her to connect on an empathetic level and empower communities and students. “I’ve always been good at finding people’s strengths, setting them up for success and nurturing them,” she said. 

Her work in the ’80s as a manager at the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works laid the groundwork for her later jumping into the leadership role with grit and tenacity to “save the TileWorks, despite all of the opposition.” 

Examples of the many types of tiles produced at The TileWorks.

Then, in the handmade tile renaissance of the ’90s, she discovered the melding of disciplines between artist studios, industry, museums, and collectors flocking to Tile Heritage Foundation (THF) conferences. She became a THF director, crediting the foundation with “giving [her] a voice.” 

She says the “time is right for women-run companies” inspired by women who have laid the foundation: Barbara Sallick, co-founder of Waterworks; kitchen designer and remodeler Joanne Hudson; Nancy Epstein of Artistic Tile; Marie Glasse Tapp, founder of the Tile Restoration Center in Seattle, Wash.; Sheila Menzies, who parlayed her love of ceramic tiles into the establishment of The Tile Heritage Foundation in 1987, along with Joseph Taylor; Sara Baldwin, who started New Ravenna in 1991 as a single mother at her coffee table; and Nawal Motawi, president and artistic director of Motawi Tiles in Ann Arbor, Mich. 

Heidi Martin, President, United Tile

President, United Tile

Heidi Martin, President of United Tile, and the latest inductee into the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA) Hall of Fame in 2023, initially had absolutely no intention of entering the family tile business. Post-college, she taught at an international school in Germany and then joined the international division of Eddie Bauer. But 28 years ago, when her dad’s partner offered her a sales role calling on the A&D community, she saw it as an opportunity to develop a different skill set. She was hooked, and the rest is herstory!

She developed an appreciation for hard work, effective leadership, strategic planning and company culture in helping guide a small business. Her ability to multi-task – which she notes many women share – has been very beneficial. In addition, she said “traits such as attention to detail, creativity, clear communication, and problem-solving have been pivotal in my professional journey. Having an interest and eye for color, fashion, and design has proven helpful in terms of staying attuned to market trends.” Feeling fulfilled to be in a business that aligns with her skill sets, she observed that women are adept at seamlessly navigating between analytical and creative aspects of the job.

Heidi Martin was inducted into the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA) Hall of Fame in 2023.

Martin established a name and reputation on her own merits, and not as the “owner’s daughter.” Achieving this was a true labor of love, since she said, “I love everything about this industry, and the caliber of individuals within it has continually impressed me.” 

She calls her position on the CTDA Board of Directors a privilege, allowing her to dive more deeply into the organization, enhancing her connections with other distributors, and expanding her understanding of the workings of the industry. 

She calls her election by her peers and induction into the CTDA Hall of Fame “a moment of immense pride… This recognition stands as a testament to the hard work and dedication I’ve invested in the industry, and it remains one of my proudest achievements.”

Having and eye for color fashion and design helps Martin stay attuned to market trends.

Martin credited the dynamic and creative nature of the industry with attracting women at every level, and expanding their presence and influence. Networking opportunities put women in touch with peers, and enable learning and professional growth, individually and collectively. She named NTCA’s Women In Tile and Facebook’s Tile Chix group as valuable spaces for women to connect, share experiences and both give and receive support. 

Martin encouraged women considering a tile industry career to develop a strong work ethic and believe in their abilities. “Confidence, coupled with a strong commitment to hard work, forms a solid foundation for success,” she said.  She advised staying open and informed about new trends, technologies, and practices to enhance skills and marketability, while taking an ethical, respectful path to build a positive reputation in this close-knit industry. Finally, she recommended embracing challenges as opportunities for growth, and viewing overcoming obstacles as ways to cultivate personal and professional development.     

Editorial Director and Senior Writer for TileLetter and TileLetter ARTISAN

Lesley Goddin has been writing and journaling since her first diary at age 11. Her journey has taken her through a career in publishing and publicity, landing her the editor position of TileLetter and its special publications in 2006. Her goal is to educate, inspire, recognize and encourage those in the tile industry -- especially the tile and stone contractor.

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