Local manufacturing business smashes glass ceiling in male-dominated industry

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Joanie Cooper-Gerber said she never imagined that she would work in the manufacturing industry, let alone become the president of Bickle Manufacturing in Smithsburg.

“I did not see myself being here running this business, not at all,” Cooper-Gerber said.

She said it hasn’t always been smooth sailing working in a field where she’s often outnumbered one to seven by her male co-workers.

“It’s shocking to most people to see a woman in this industry with running a business,” Cooper-Gerber said.

But eventually, she said she moved past their harsh words and in just two years as president, she’s taken a struggling business and turned it into one of prosper. So much so, that the company just received a Women in Small Business Certificate, which is only given to small business that are owned and operated by women.

“It’s enabled us to move forward as we want to. We’re going to be able to get more work from the federal and state government,” Cooper-Gerber said.

Joan Bikle, owner of the company, said there were even less women involved in manufacturing when the company was founded 45 years ago.

“At that time, I never saw another woman making a delivery,” Bikle said. “I was there amongst all the men.”

Bikle and Cooper-Gerber said it will take time to smash the stereotype that metal-working is a “man’s job.” They said girls need to be encouraged at an early age and know they are just as qualified to pursue this career as men.

“Most people think a business like manufacturing is for men, but it’s not,” Bikle said.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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