Women helping women

Women helping women

We know that the fresh produce business has traditionally been a male-dominated industry.

Look around the room at any big trade conference in 2019, and you will see how that demographic is changing — at least in some roles. 

But what can produce women, whatever their positions may be, do now to help make it better for the next generation of women rising up?

That was the focus of an education session on the trade show floor during the United Fresh Produce Association’s Conference and Expo June 10-12 in Chicago. 

First: Experienced, successful women can mentor bright, shining newbies. 

“If you can take my job, then I’ve been successful in leadership,” said Jan Berk, chief operating officer of San Miguel Produce Inc. and the 2019 United Fresh Woman in Produce honoree.

Next, it’s imperative to speak honestly, openly — and just to speak up. I admit that’s easy to say, but doing it effectively is another matter in tricky work politics.

That’s where personality tests can come in handy. 

Mackenzie Wortham, account director at DMA Solutions Inc., said the staff did several versions of personality tests and knows how each person scored.

“We’ve really learned a lot about ourselves, and I see a lot of things through that lens now. I’m able to adjust my approach based on my understanding, not only of that person, but how I come across when I need to deliver bad news,” Wortham said.

I did a personality test at a conference workshop recently and learned what my colleagues scored as well. Like Wortham, I’ve since found it helpful in communication.

There’s also the generational differences to consider. Millennials are told they’re entitled.

But really, millennials are part of a cultural shift that needs the “why.” They want to understand the context, the background of why their company does a particular task in a particular way. They need motivation based on values and purpose.

When established career women can share that with mentees, everyone can understand each other better. 

Also, women of all stages — single, married, with children or not — need to take control of their own work/life balance and figure out what that means to them. This will never be easy.

“Work/life balance should be thought of week to week. It’s not a destination. That’s about you; that’s about the individual. It’s a mindset,” said Dan’l Mackey Almy, president and CEO of DMA Solutions.

Finally, women should take advantage of the relationship-building opportunities of social media. We all know this is a relationship business.

“People who say they don’t want to mix work and personal, I think you’re missing something on Facebook and LinkedIn,” said Karen Caplan, president and CEO of Frieda’s Inc. 

“The best way to have a relationship is to be connected, somehow, when you can’t see someone. To me, social media is such a gift.”

Hey, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. The benefits are real.

Amy Sowder is The Packer’s Northeast editor. E-mail her at [email protected]

Related content:
Jan Berk: Find your own way, together
Millennials Eat — Takeaways from the 2019 Women in Produce
Women in Produce