The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) held its first International Professional Women in Pest Management Leadership Forum (WLF) via a virtual platform on Nov. 9-10.
Originally, the inaugural event was scheduled for May in San Diego, Calif., but the coronavirus pandemic changed those plans.
The WLF was geared toward female owners and managers, with a focus on leadership issues and workplace experiences unique to women. Men in the pest management industry were welcome as well, to gain a better understanding of the issues that affect women in the workplace.
NPMA CEO Dominique Stumpf, CMP, CAE, welcomed attendees by providing some history on how far women in the pest management industry have come.
When Stumpf started her career at the NPMA, she said, she helped organize breakfast and lunch meetings for women during PestWorld via the NPMA’s Professional Women in Pest Management council. At the time, attendance ranged from 20 to fewer than 12, and eventually evolved into large breakfast networking events with nearly 150 to 200 women.
“My, how we have changed as an industry together over the last 20 years,” she said. “We’re here together, albeit virtually, at a conference dedicated to supporting women in pest management. That’s like a huge woo hoo!”
The lineup of female speakers discussed such issues as business growth, personal development, the career lifecycle for women, and recruitment and retention of female employees. Networking opportunities were built into the event, along with a fun reception complete with drinks and entertainment.
The sessions, said Stumpf, were “designed to address issues and challenges related to women in the workforce in pest management, and this means being inclusive of our male colleagues whose support is also critical for us to all succeed and achieve our goals.”
Each day featured a moderator who ensured presentations stayed on track and asked questions participants wrote in the virtual platform’s chat box. On Day One, it was the NPMA Treasurer Marillian Missiti of Buono Pest Control Co. in Belmont. Mass., and on Day Two, it was the NPMA Secretary Faye Golden of Cook’s Pest Control in Decatur, Ala.
Highlights of the WLF included:
The panel discussion Breaking Barriers that featured strong female leaders from the pest management industry: Judy Dold, chairwoman, Rose Pest Solutions, Northfield, Ill.; Emily Thomas Kendrick, CEO, Arrow Exterminators, Atlanta, Ga.; Stacy O’Reilly, owner, Plunkett’s Pest Control, Fridley, Minn.
Dold, a member of the PMP Hall of Fame (Class of 2002), discussed breaking the glass ceiling, and shared three simple ideas she related to her experiences. The first was implicit bias, which she said we don’t acknowledge but know exists. She explained that when she signed contracts early in her career, she wrote JK Dold and not Judy Dold, because back then men didn’t want to work with women, and so they assumed she was a man. She advised young women to “stand tall and have a sense of confidence that is obvious to the people around you.” The second idea was to ask for help. “The more senior someone is in an organization, the more likely they are to say, ‘I’m happy to help,’” she said. Her third idea was to stay true to yourself: “Nobody is as special [and] unique as you are. Don’t compromise standards or goals. Be yourself.”
O’Reilly talked about the opportunities for women and the need for pushing aside stereotypes. One day, a woman leading the board room meeting will not be mistaken for the person who is there to organize the coffee and doughnuts, she said, adding “Don’t feel the pressure to always be the one who has all the answers. Especially in this industry, we don’t do this alone. None of us could.”
Kendrick shared experiences earned after taking charge of her family’s business, which is now a powerhouse in the pest control industry with 131 offices. “Know your strengths and weaknesses, and then act accordingly,” she said. Focus the majority of your time on the things you are good at, she added, and step back to let the “crazy smart people” you hired do their jobs. She also shared the single best piece of advice she has been given: Be your authentic self.
“Permission to Screw Up,” a presentation by Kristen Hadeed, founder of Student Maid, a cleaning and concierge service company, is proof women don’t have to be perfect to be successful. She related the story of how and why she started her company, and the setbacks she overcame along the way. “Being human is normal; there’s nothing wrong with that,” she said. Hadeed discussed the importance of empathy, work-life harmony, intentionality, and resilience. She advised women to reflect, recharge and play. At the end of the day, every day, she said, she takes time to think about what went well and what didn’t, and how she can learn from it.
Jessica Phelan, president of Vault Communications, Plymouth Meeting, Pa., offered her perspective on the lifecycle of a woman’s career. For many women, the 20s are a time of ambition, the 30s a period of culture shock, the 40s a period of re-acceleration and the 50s and over a time for self-actualization, according to author Eva Wittenberg Cox. Phelan also discussed the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on working women, observing that “the pandemic intensified challenges women already faced because working mothers have always worked a double shift: a full day of work and hours spent caring for children and doing household labor.” She added, “If companies make an investment in a more flexible and empathetic workplace, we will have loyal employees forevermore.”
A fun networking reception closed out the first evening of the event. To make it extra special for everyone, a gift box with treats and supplies to craft a delicious cocktail were shipped to attendees days before the event, and all they needed to do was add their favorite spirits while watching mixologist Thy Parra of Cocktail Creations offer pro tips. Violinist Dr. Chelsey Green of Chelsey Green and The Green Project, entertained with her unique take on Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love,” the classic “My Favorite Things” and Chaka Khan’s hit “Ain’t Nobody.”
Stumpf thanked the companies that made this year’s WLF possible: Premiere Sponsor Bayer; Platinum Sponsor Rollins; Gold Sponsors Certus and Terminix; and Silver Sponsors Arrow Exterminators, Cook’s Pest Control, Ecolab, Massey Services and ServicePro.
Of the attendees, she said, “In person or virtually, we wouldn’t be able to host this amazing program without all of you here with us.”
Plans are underway to hold next year’s WLF in San Diego in November.