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Talent Development: Women in the Ranks

Talent management programs—from internal company initiatives to industry efforts like the Produce Marketing Association’s Women’s Fresh Perspectives Conference—can help address the produce industry’s critical lack of female leaders.

“The reality is that in the traditionally male-dominated produce industry, women are still sharply underrepresented, especially in key leadership roles,” said Wendy McManus, leadership coach with Connect 2 Potential, based in Orlando, FL.

“We also see that the fresh produce industry is somewhat insular, in that companies tend to promote from within or hire key players away from other produce firms when they have a leadership role to fill. This means the impetus is on the industry to develop women leaders and build a pipeline of talent that can step up into these top positions.”

Research shows the lack of women leaders is an issue across industries: in the United States, the percentage of women in management positions in agribusiness industries is at only 23 percent.

The percentage of U.S. businesses overall with at least one woman in senior management rose from 69 percent in 2017 to 81 percent in 2018, according to consulting and accounting firm Grant Thornton. But the overall percentage of senior roles held by women declined over the same period, from 23 percent in 2017 to 21 percent in 2018.

“Today’s generations of top talent—male and female—expect to work with organizations that embrace diverse leadership teams and have women in top leadership roles,” said Kristen Reid, executive vice president at Mixtec Group in La Crescenta, CA.

“Without having women in critical business positions, it’s challenging to recruit and retain the talent needed to help propel your business forward.”

It has also been proven that women have a positive impact on financial performance. Credit Suisse found that when 25 percent of senior-level employees were women, company stocks were up for the year.

Growth was 10.3 percent when women represented 50 percent of senior-level slots. Similarly, Nordea Group found that public companies with a female CEO or chairperson averaged a 25 percent annualized return from 2009 to 2017, compared to 11 percent across all companies.

“The good news is that women are more willing than ever to speak up and ask for leadership development opportunities,” McManus said. “Now it’s up to every company in the fresh produce space to look for opportunities to develop and promote women leaders. Women truly are good for business, and it’s time for the produce industry to get its share of that benefit.”

This is an excerpt from the most recent Produce Blueprints quarterly journal. Click here to read the full version.