Women in Business panel shares best practices for engaging and developing women in the workplace
Here’s what the experts had to say
Recently, the Chamber held its latest event in the Women in Business Series, this time at Post Consumer brands. Speakers included 2023-2024 Chamber Board Chair, Jill Bollettieri of Post Consumer Brands, as well as a panel of female business leaders who took a broad and intersectional approach to their discussion on women in the workforce. Panelists shared their personal journeys, challenges and success stories, as well as business best practices for engaging, supporting and developing women and other underrepresented demographics in the workplace.
- Roxanne Davis, Vice President of Manufacturing, Post Consumer Brands
- Amy Cernava, Plant Director, Post Consumer Brands
- Ramona Wilson, Diversity Director, Knutson Construction
- Moderated by: Whitney Harvey, Senior Director of Workforce Diversity and Inclusion
Ramona Wilson, Diversity Director, Knutson Construction
On the value of mentorship in the workplace
Ramona Wilson: When I talk to a lot of times with women, it's so important for us to mentor each other and be there for one another because we're sometimes we are the only ones in the room. We are the only ones in the department. And it's difficult at times. You feel like you're on the island, we know that you've been working. I know that working in D and I, you feel like you're on the island by yourself sometimes. It's so important to have that relationship with another woman and support, but also our companies have to take accountability, too, and start holding people accountable for some of their actions.
On the importance of work-life balance
Ramona Wilson: I was so caught up in my career and where I wanted to go when I started off. I think it's so important that we just take the time some time and sit back and just say, okay, what can I not do? What can I do something on the more personal side for me, getting my nails done, doing whatever. I mean, do something for yourself. I share that all the time with folks and I'm mentoring. I will say, draw the line. You've got to draw a line in the sand.
Amy Cernava, Plant Director, Post Consumer Brands
On the importance of creating an inclusive workplace environment
Amy Cernava: I have a degree in mechanical engineering, which when I went to school, women in engineering was very uncommon. In the entire program at my university, there were four women, and two were not traditional women that did not live on campus because they already had families, et cetera...The guys didn't leave me out of things on purpose or ignore me on purpose, but I definitely felt like an outsider. And it opened my eyes to a lot of things. One, I had to take some actions to help myself be included in things. I could do things like instead of studying in my dorm room, I could go to the engineering building and study in the library, the engineering building where I would run into other people that I could connect with. I think it also just opened my eyes for my entire career after that even when I'm an insider, I'm the plant manager. I know what's going on. There are people on my team that aren't feeling included, and I may not even be realizing it, just like the guys in college didn't realize that with me.
On the importance of being both a mentor and a mentee in the workplace
Amy Cernava: I think the neat part for me now is being at the level I'm at, I have a lot of people that I mentor, but I still put in for mentoring myself. Just recently, we have a newer female plant manager at one of our plants. I was on a call with her doing one-on-ones, just relationship-building. And she was telling me about her new mentee and I said, "Okay, who's your mentor?" She goes, "What are you talking about?" I said, "Just because you're a plant manager doesn't mean that you no longer need it." She was here this week in-person and she said, "I've been thinking about that every day since you said it to me, and I will be signing up in the next round because you're exactly right." No matter what level you're at, going mentee and mentor is great.
Roxanne Davis, Vice President of Manufacturing, Post Consumer Brands
On the importance of mentorship and connections with those outside of your workplace
Roxanne Davis: I really wanted to have some connection not directly tied in with where I work. I looked out on LinkedIn and typed in 'VP food manufacturing." I found three people that I cold-called and sent notes to in the, and was like, "Hey, I'm looking to transition into this level. Would you be interested or be willing to talk to me? I still have one person, that was like, "Absolutely, I would love to connect with you. I would love to talk with you." This was seven, eight years ago. I'm still shocked that that happened. And I'll tell you, I a hundred percent take every single LinkedIn person that reaches out to me now, and I've actually had people do that with me.
Being able to have that personal connection point especially someone who is outside of my exact field but still could help me understand the transition necessary, I think was really impactful.
On developing a pipeline of female talent in the manufacturing industry at Post Consumer Brands
Roxanne Davis: Obviously there's lots of work tied into recruiting and things like that, but I wanted to highlight something that Post started about five years ago that's been really successful at bringing women into the organization. We started up what we call an operations leadership development program. It is early career, four job rotations over a two-year period in two different locations. We have been recruiting a high percentage of females, young, early professional, many right out of school, technical degreed, into those programs...And then we have of a choose your own path, so depending on the individual, we provide a little bit of flexibility to say, "Hey, what is that interest?"...What I find interesting is we're growing the talent internally, right?...The pipeline of women coming into manufacturing early career and staying because of the activities and the sort of pieces that we put in the program, we're finding a lot of success. I think we feel like we can grow some of that talent, hopefully it stays here, but also just populating folks coming into manufacturing operations, which is sometimes intimidating for an early career female.
Women in Business attendee testimonial
I really enjoy these Women In Business events and often find myself talking about them for weeks to come. Really clear and applicable topics and very nicely put on. Thank you!
Interested in other Women in Business events?
Join us on December 7 for Women in Business: Annual legislator luncheon featuring your opportunity to hear about how public policy is impacting your business and meet female elected officials. This event is an annual favorite and always sells out! Women in Business is a quarterly series designed to engage women business leaders in public policy. It’s an excellent opportunity for women – and men – to network with their peers while learning the importance of issues critical to growing a business and the state’s economy. Programs are entertaining, enlightening and educational.