This year, Kohler Co.
marked Women's History Month by celebrating several bold women who have influenced the organization over their tenure. From bringing a voice to women’s issues and breaking barriers to developing the framework for the company’s stewardship efforts and leading the kitchen and bath business globally, women have played a vital role in Kohler’s past and are leading us into the future. These are the stories of just some of the many bold women of Kohler.
Ruth DeYoung Kohler, mother of Kohler Executive Chairman Herbert V. Kohler Jr., was a lifelong champion of women’s rights, encouraging women to vote and speak up. Leading by example, Ruth worked as women’s editor of the Chicago Tribune, hosted the broadcast radio series Women WorldWide, authored books about Wisconsin’s history and trailblazing women, founded the Women’s Auxiliary of the Wisconsin Historical Society and served as Chair of the Wisconsin Women’s Committee during the state’s centennial celebration. Ruth met her beloved husband Herbert, then-president of Kohler Co., at the 1937 Women’s Congress in Chicago, where she was a key speaker.
Mary Jamnik began copying blueprints in the Engineering Department in 1941. As men went off to fight in World War II, additional help was needed on the drawing boards. Mary became Kohler’s first engineering draftswoman. Without any formal education in the field, Mary adapted quickly. She learned by tracing existing drawings and updating them gradually to specifications, eventually becoming confident enough to draw herself. Mary was the first and only woman working in the engineering department at the time. Thanks to her encouragement, more women entered the department, paving the way for new opportunities after the war.
On March 12, 1908, Cora Tuthill joined Kohler Co. as a telephone operator. In 1910, she transferred to the Accounting Department, where she eventually retired after compiling an impressive service record of 48 years. Cora was the first female member of the company’s Quarter Century Club and first to receive a gold wristwatch, instead of the men’s pocket watch. The engraving was identical: “He who toils here hath set his mark."
Berna Heitzer joined the Quarter Century Club in 1938. In 1963, Berna became the first woman to join the Half Century Club, earning a gold plate for her commitment. She was also active in the community, encouraging women to pursue business careers and follow their passions. She was elected Executive Club Secretary to the Kohler Woman’s Club and worked for eight years with Kohler Foundation after her corporate retirement. She never worked elsewhere, dedicating 64 total years to Kohler Co. and Kohler Foundation.
Catherine Cleary began her career as an attorney in the legal department at Kohler Co in 1943. She would become one of the most influential businesswomen in the country during the 1970s and 1980s. After an impressive career as a corporate attorney and president and CEO of First Wisconsin Trust Company, Catherine broke barriers as the first woman on Kohler Co.’s Board of Directors. She also served on boards for AT&T, General Motors, Kraft and Northwestern Mutual.
In a 1976 speech, Herbert V. Kohler Jr., then-president of Kohler Co., said, “Miss Cleary is what some people might call our representative female on the board. Far from it, she is called the leading businesswoman in the United States.”
In a male-dominated field, Amy Meyer is fighting stereotypes, championing diversity and opening doors for women in STEM. Her leadership as Kohler Co. Vice President of Operations started with a step off of the typical path. Amy initially thought she would teach. But that didn’t fulfill her passion for business innovation. She followed her dreams and is committed to providing opportunities to young women, especially in STEM.
"Many times, we want to pigeonhole individuals into careers based on what the world sees them as,” Amy said. “It’s my job as a leader to find those individuals and lift them.”
As President of the Asia-Pacific region of Kohler’s largest business segment, Angel Yang leads her group with steady guidance. She began her career with Kohler in 2009 as the Director of Finance for the region and eventually advanced to Vice President & Business Manager, before ultimately overseeing the entire business.
From managing an international organization to designing strategies for the global marketplace and cultivating a culture of innovation, she’s built an incredible career through passion, business acumen and an entrepreneurial spirit. Angel is constantly encouraging others to learn and gain confidence.
Jen Rindt demonstrates her bold leadership as the Director of Digital Transformation for Kohler Power Group. With experience across engineering, sales and marketing, she’s never shied away from an opportunity and has the diverse skillset to prove it. Now, she’s leading Kohler Co. into the future.
“There’s always something new and challenging to find if you’re willing to take the chance,” Jen said. “I’ve worked in multiple business units and industries, and I think it’s made me a better businesswoman and leader.”
As a leader in Kohler Hospitality, Mariah wows guests with delicious food, exceptional service and a knack for remembering their favorite orders. Her hospitality roots run deep, she grew up working at her grandparent’s resort, and her ability to connect with guests is helping her build a career doing what she loves.
Laura Kohler’s passion for empowering others has propelled her career forward and opened new doors for diverse individuals.
As the leader of Kohler Co.’s worldwide Human Resources organization and Stewardship and Sustainability programs, she drives Kohler’s global corporate social responsibility and sustainability strategies, including community partnerships, corporate and associate giving, disaster relief and Kohler’s journey to net positivity. Laura also oversees Kohler’s renowned Arts/Industry program and has served on Kohler’s Board of Directors since 1999.