Last year the produce industry ramped up its efforts to support women in executive roles, and these initiatives are likely to have continued impact through 2014.
When the Produce Marketing Association Foundation added a conference to its Fresh Perspective annual events in April, it was met by an enthusiastic response.
“It’s 2½ days of leadership training, skill building and motivational activities for women in the produce industry. And it’s the only produce industry training specifically for women,” said Margi Prueitt, executive director of the PMA Foundation for Industry Talent and PMA senior vice president.
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The conference planners had room for 150 attendees and stretched their limit to 177.
“[The conference] could have taken probably another 50, but we didn’t have room for them in the hotel,” said Prueitt. “There was a pretty significant pent-up demand for this.”
The PMA Foundation partners with the Simmons School of Management to develop the educational sessions. The 2014 conference will have larger sessions and room for 250 attendees.
In addition to providing more resources to women, PMA has also been working to educate the current decision makers in industry on the benefits of hiring women for leadership roles.
Elisa van Dam, senior director of executive education and corporate outreach for the Simmons School of Management, spoke at the Fresh Summit State of the Industry address about research that shows having more women in executive positions can be more profitable.
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“We would argue that if you are in an industry that is very complex and very relationship driven like the produce industry, a more feminine style of leadership is actually going to be more successful,” said van Dam in the presentation.
These industry efforts have seen slow but steady results.
“And we know that change of any kind … you don’t flip a switch and it’s there overnight. It’s an evolutionary process,” Prueitt said.
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