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Kickstart: 'It feels really good to be connected'
One of my favorite parts of the Women Breaking the Mold Networking Forum each year involves strangers. It's about connecting with people from branches of the industry that are completely new to you. At each year's "speed networking" event, attendees are told to sit next to someone they've never met.
In one room, you meet someone in sales from a materials company or a health and safety expert who works on the shop floor for a film maker. During this week's event Nov. 14-15 in Nashville, Tenn., I overheard a discussion between one woman from a mold maker specializing in caps and closures and another from an industrial thermoformer sharing stories on employee retention. Those cross-industry connections are less likely at a packaging conference or a medical trade show or a recycling event.
Plastics News and Rubber News, our sister paper and fellow organizer of the forum, will have more coverage coming up, but you can find some previews now with Kristin Kelley of Amcor Rigid Plastics and Quiana Kee, Continental Tire the Americas LLC.
Common threads — leadership styles, communicating with multiple generations, career goals and a very complex work-life balance — appeared throughout the event.
"As women we are collectively exhausted," said Danielle Cannata, senior manager, international trade and regulation for Sabic, during the forum. "It's tiring.
"It feels really good to be connected and together with people who feel the same thing, [but] we shouldn't only have this feeling when we're at a conference for women."
A single company — no matter how inclusive — can't change society, of course. But speakers at the forum said that a business that welcomes and encourages a diverse workforce creates a culture where employees feel they have a place where they belong.
When employees have strong allies, they are 65 percent more likely to be happy with their job, 86 percent more likely to recommend their company as a place to work, 40 percent less likely to be burned out and 53 percent less likely to consider leaving their job, said Tayte French Lutz, vice president and corporate secretary and treasurer of French Oil Mill Machinery Co.
In addition, she noted a Harvard Business Review study showed that companies with poor culture saw revenue growth of 166 percent, but those with strong culture saw growth of 683 percent over the same period. The same pattern held true for stock price, profit and workforce.
With all the pressures from both work and home, it's easy to fall into a trap of blaming yourself for being unable to do it all, said Meena Banasiak, vice president of quality and corporate social responsibility at Phoenix Closures.
"How often is it that you make a commitment … and you're still regretting the things you left behind?" she asked. "How often is it that there are two or more things competing for your attention and you're trying to figure out how to choose?"
Instead of dwelling on a cycle of "coulda, woulda, shoulda," she said, allow yourself to say "no" to a project you're not able to take on — at home or at work.
"Afford yourself the same compassion and grace that you would gladly give others," Banasiak said. "We're imperfect creatures. We're going to make missteps and it's OK."
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