(Pictured, top row, left to right): Kristen Hadeed; a panel featuring Marillian Missiti, Stacey O’Reilly, Judy Dold and Emily Thomas Kendrick. Bottom row, left to right: Ildem Bozkurt and Dominique Stumpf; and PCT Editor-in-Chief Jodi Dorsch). 

Editor’s note: The Professional Women in Pest Management (PWIPM) held its Leadership Forum virtually last week. More than 160 people registered for the event, including six from Canada, one from the UK and one from Trinidad and Tobago. UK-based freelance journalist Frances McKim filed the following report for PCT.

FAIRFAX, Va.— For the second time within a month the National Pest Management Association hosted another virtual event. Following the success of their flagship virtual event, PestWorld 2020, this time it was the turn of the International Professional Women in Pest Management Leadership Forum running over the two days, November 9 and 10. Once again the industry showed its adaptability by embracing this virtual format.

NPMA CEO Dominique Stumpf greeted delegates, expressing her obvious pride that these events dedicated to supporting women in pest management had grown over the last 20 years from breakfast meetings with less than 12 delegates, through lunch meetings to the now popular breakfast session held at PestWorld and attracting up to 200 participants. She announced that this virtual meeting was the first International Professional Women in Pest Management Leadership Forum, or for short, simply WLF.

As Stumpf explained: “The WLF has been designed with industry focused programming, leadership development, business growth, personal development all around the perspective of the woman’s life cycle in the workforce. All this is designed to address issues and challenges relating to women within pest management yet with the involvement of male colleagues whose support is critical to achieve this goal.” 

On behalf of the event’s premier sponsor, Bayer, Ildem Bozkurt, previously Head of Pest Management & Public Health US but now promoted to Head of Vegetable Seeds Commercial Operations for EMEA and APAC, touched on a topic that was soon to become a recurring theme of the event – namely how the COVID-19 pandemic had not only stopped the world in its tracks, but that women had been particularly affected.

Over the two days of the program there were some excellent motivational and leadership speakers, maybe none more so than Kristen Hadeed who, almost by accident, founded, Student Maid. She related her journey and assured her audience that it was totally allowable to be ‘perfectly imperfect’. 

But within the pest management industry itself can be found inspirational female leaders – none more so than Judy Dold of Rose Pest Solutions; Emily Kendrick from Arrow Exterminators and Plunkett’s Pest Control’s Emily Kendrick who, under the chairmanship of Marillian Missiti of Buono Pest Control, held a panel discussing how women can break those “glass ceilings.” Dold certainly felt there was an implicit bias as far as women were concerned but her three key messages were: to seek advice and the more senior the person you ask the better; to find a mentor and most of all, to be yourself.

PCT’s editor, Jodi Dorch discussed the results of two recent surveys undertaken by PCT. The first featured in the January 2020 issue and researched how employees felt about their workplace, whilst an earlier survey featured in the January 2019 issue explored the diversity of those working within the pest management industry. Of particular relevance to this group of delegates is the finding that a mere 8.4% of technicians are female, despite the fact most residential customers are female and feel more comfortable with a same sex technician in their home. 83% of office staff were female.

Speaking from personal experience, Dorsch echoed the sentiments that life for working women, especially those with children, had been especially challenging due to wives and mothers having to juggle priorities. This is not purely anecdotal, as Dorsch quoted a statistic presented in an article in the Wall Street Journal that women made up 47% of the US labor force but accounted for 54% of the coronavirus-related job losses.

In addition to the presentations there were coffee chats, a networking reception, discussion sessions and even a yoga class, so an educational and fun time was had by all.