March 1, 2021 | Spotlights

Leadership Challenges for Women Past and Present


In honor of women’s history month, we present some of the women who changed the home furnishings industry for the better.

Employee Health & Safety

In the 1800s Margaret Knight, one of industries first female leaders created a shuttle safety device for weaving looms to protect the workers. Today’s leaders have had to learn how to protect their workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another workplace innovator, Mrs. Aminy Audi of Stickley Furniture established an employee wellness initiative, which included a registered nurse onsite and one of the industry’s first smoking cessation programs. Many companies now offer wellness programs for employees.

Diversity and Inclusion

Today’s issue of diversity and inclusion in the workplace is certainly not a modern day challenge. Industry titan, Rose Gorelick Blumkin was born into a Jewish family in Russia, immigrated to the U.S. in 1917 at the age of 20 and although she spoke no English, she and her husband founded Nebraska Furniture Mart. Business didn’t come easy as manufacturers, at first, wouldn’t sell to her and banks wouldn’t lend her money. Eventually, her multi-million dollar business was bought by Warren Buffett and she is known as one of America’s greatest entrepreneurs.

Customer Satisfaction

Stella Harris, along with her husband, grew a one-man furniture business into Furnitureland South by focusing on adding value for consumers. A pioneer in the furniture retail world, she helped to create styled vignettes as displays, and added amenities such as a restaurant, coffee house, and shopper’s lounge.

Philanthropy, Education and Advocacy

After her husband died in 1969, Mary McKenzie Henkel took over the reigns of Henkel Harris Company and grew it into a business of great prominence. She was the first woman elected to the AFMA Board of Directors, and established a scholarship fund for students interested in careers in the furniture industry.

Aminy Audi established scholarships for college bound children of Stickley employees.

Jena Goldman Hall not only pioneered the mix-and-match approach in home décor, which is now an industry standard, she was also the founding president of WithIt, the women’s leadership and development network.


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