PMA Virtual Town Hall

Women in the produce industry speak on resilience, confidence and stress management

This week’s PMA virtual town hall featured three women who are leaders in the produce industry. They were led in discussion by PMA CEO Cathy Burns about how they made their mark on the industry and how the industry can join together to create a more inclusive place not just for women but for everyone.

Resilience and confidence
For most people in the industry and throughout the world, there have been many lessons along their career paths, but none that prepared them fully for the pandemic we are currently going through. The panelists spoke on what personal characteristics helped them face challenges head-on, and how to build and nurture these characteristics. The two main characteristics that were discussed were resiliency and confidence.  “It’s been important throughout my career but even more so now,” one panelist shares about her capacity for resilience.

“Every challenge brings multiple opportunities, and that is why we should appreciate the challenges. You’ll be surprised at how far you can push yourself. Your career is like a road, and sometimes you must enjoy your journey by making the most of it, taking what comes your way and going with it. Nothing will ever happen exactly how you expect it to, so while it’s good to have goals, being open and making the most of what life throws at you is also very important.”

If going through challenges helps us grow and improve, then being resilient is a very important characteristic to possess. So how do you help yourself build you resilience? One of the panelists shares that confidence is a necessary characteristic to possess: “A lack of confidence kills more dreams than a lack of ability. We grow by going through tough times, and resilience comes from experience. Facing your challenges and fears head-on will help you build courage and strength for going through the challenges. Then, when we get through to the other side, we’ll have experienced growth and will be better equipped to meet the next challenge.” It takes time to build up both confidence and resilience but by putting yourself in uncomfortable situations, and doing it often, you will be able to cultivate these characteristics. 

Managing stress and engaging in self-care
While facing challenges head-on and putting yourself in uncomfortable situations is important to grow both personally and in your career, it is also important to be able to manage your stress levels and take good care of yourself in the process. “One of the most important things I’ve learned over the years is how to take care of myself, and that doing this is just as important as anything else. The produce industry never stops, and so it can be difficult to stop working. But by setting boundaries for yourself and setting a time to end your day, you will be able to start the next day refreshed and at your best,” says one of the panelists.  

This self-care can come in many forms, from taking the time to adding some exercise into your daily routine, to changing the way you speak to yourself. One panelist shares: “The person we talk to most is ourselves through our thoughts. We can be our own worst critics inside our minds, and we build up our own fears. There’s enough happening in our day-to-day lives, we definitely don’t need to be dealing with the additional challenges created by our minds. That is why it’s important to be mindful of negative thoughts and reset your thought pattern. Program yourself to be your best champion. Of course, you can analyze past mistakes and failures and learn from them, but don’t dwell on the negative – draw on the good things you’ve done in the past and dwell on that.”

Equity in the workplace
One of the focuses of this week’s town hall was how to increase inclusivity in the workplace within the produce industry. The overall consensus between the panelists was to work to lift each other up. “Reach out to other females, like we’re doing in this town hall, and expand your circles and network. There are a lot of common issues and seeing how others tackle these is important,” one panelist says. Another adds: “We all rise by lifting each other, no matter if you’re a man or a woman. Every company, job, and person is unique so don’t be afraid to ask the women in your company and in your surroundings what you can do to promote their presence and ideas, and how you can lift them up.”

Next week’s town hall will examine the future of labor and the ethical charts. The discussion will feature panelists of companies who endorse the ethical charter and focus on what this means for their companies and their employees. To sign up for this event, click here.

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