Who Runs the Packaging World?: Women Rise to Leadership Roles

March is Women’s History Month when we recognize the fantastic accomplishments of women around the globe. In all industries, women have played a pivotal role in shaping industry growth. According to a report by McKinsey Quarterly United States, women occupy 16.9% of the board seats at Fortune 500 companies. Further, 19% of Fortune 1000 companies have at least three or more women on their boards.  While the number of female leaders isn’t at par yet, women have made great strides in the world of business. Most notably, there have been significant movements in the packaging industry.

“The packaging industry has made great strides in getting more women in the field,” says packaging consultant JoAnn Hines, the founder of the former organization, Women in Packaging. Hines founded the organization in 1993, back when there was a limited number of female sales reps. Today, approximately 30-40% of sales reps are women, estimates Hines. This is due in part because more women are studying packaging.

Michigan State University is America’s first packaging school.

The university’s School of Packaging has seen the number of female packaging school graduates skyrocket over the years. The School told Packaging Digest that for the graduating year of 2014, the male to female ratio of graduates was 50:50.

Advice for Women in Packaging

As a packaging specialist, you are likely familiar with the primary marketing principles. Now it’s time to take those skills and market yourself so that your career can rise in the world of packaging.

Here are some essential tips from other female leaders:

Get diverse experience in multiple spheres of the business:

The more diversified your resume is, the more connections and knowledge you’ll have. “Don’t be afraid to make lateral moves that take you out of your comfort zone, to gain experience in those areas that packaging touches—processing, quality, marketing, operations. The broader your experience, the more valuable you will be to an organization,” says industry titan, Jane Chase, senior director of packaging engineering with The Schwan Food Co.

Foster key connections and relationships:

Take the time to learn from those who have gone before you by forming alliances with those at the top. Ask people you admire for an informational interview, and take the time to ask them thoughtful questions. Many people will be flattered by your request, and an informational interview is an excellent way to network.

Get a mentor:

You don’t have to have a formal mentor ship program to learn from someone. Think of the leaders in your office who you have a good relationship with and take the time to invests in those relationships and go the extra mile to support their business objectives. In turn, they will help your professional growth.

Raise your hand:

Volunteer to help with tasks at your office that spur revenue for the company or foster company growth. For example, raise your hand to help with the next pitch or sit on one of your company’s many boards.

Invest in your professional development:

Many firms offer formal and informal professional development opportunities, such as Toastmasters speaking courses, industry conferences or tuition credits. Use those opportunities to enhance your skills, gain new certifications and network.