In September of 2020 PMA and Center for Growing Talent convened a task force to guide work and host conversation about why diversity and inclusion matter and what companies across various industries are doing to be more inclusive. This taskforce came about as a result and in response to the need to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in the fresh produce and floral industries. PMA and CGT promised to share objectives, outcomes, and resources from the task force as they became available. In this week’s virtual town hall members of the task force, Joe Don Zetzsche, Director of Floral and Blooms Floral Shops, H-E-B; Kathy Smith, North America Strategic Accounts, Bayer US Crop Science; Adriëlle Dankier, Commercial Director, Nature's Pride; and Laura Himes, Senior Merchandising Director, Produce at Walmart joined Center for Growing Talent Executive Director Doug Bohr to do just that.
The Work Begins with Each of Us
Each member of this task force volunteered to partake in this work and was driven here for some reason. To start off the session, participants shared the personal experiences and perspectives that motivated them to join the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force.
For all four of the participants a driving factor behind joining the task force was the positive experiences and opportunities that they gained throughout their many years within the industry due to mentors guiding and supporting them. Each shared an experience of inequality they faced when joining the industry, whether it had to do with gender, race or ability, and how the people who supported and guided them helped them face and overcome such adversity. Joining this task force posed an opportunity for those who have had help in the past to continue the work and begin to help and mentor the next generation.
Diversity and Inclusion is also good for business. As younger generations begin to enter the workforce, these are things that they will begin to deem necessary, rather than a “nice-to have.” When looking to attract and retain new, young talent, having a diverse and inclusive workplace will be necessary. Similarly, focusing on the diverse needs of consumers and creating an inclusive focus on customers will only serve to broaden customer base. While these conversations may be sensitive and uncomfortable, it is important to push them forward to better your business, the industry and the world.
This task force is a milestone opportunity to begin work and have conversations about creating workplaces, and an industry, where employees feel like they can come to the table with their whole self. There is much work to be done still, while our industry has made strides to create equality and create opportunities for everyone to bring their thoughts, skills and talents to the table, there is a long history of systemic racism and equality issues across the nation that will not go away overnight. Moving forward, this task force will host conversations and bring resources to the table to create an inclusive way of looking to the future. For the members of the task force, it is about balance, belief and opportunity.
Making a Change Throughout the Industry
Participants shared examples of what their companies, and as a result the industry, are doing to promote diversity and inclusion past their participation within this task force. Some of the themes included:
- Having direct, honest and open conversations throughout leadership.
- Sharing educational and informational resources on the history behind these issues and what can be done to make change.
- Creating company-wide campaigns that encourage open dialogue, education and action.
- Investing resources into making a change. This included encouraging employees to join groups such as this one, donating money to organizations and taking the time to have important conversations.
As a trade association PMA and CGT are committed to supporting our members in their endeavors to better the industry. Participants discussed the role PMA/CGT can play in advancing diversity and inclusion past the inception of the Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce. As an association that spans the industry from field to fork, it is important for PMA to make connections between members from different sectors and to leverage the wealth of knowledge within our member base to create awareness and inspire possibilities.
As an industry, it is important to continue to make connections and invite minority and women owned businesses to the table, including our conferences. Past inviting them to the table, we need to create an inclusive culture within the industry and mentor, coach and guide them through these opportunities to help them succeed.
Objectives of the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force
The task force has aligned around a set of four objectives.
- Educate ourselves and our organization as to how to define and engender a more divers and inclusive workplace.
- Encourage and support members’ efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in ways that benefit their business and industry professionals.
- Coordinate outreach to and development of minority-owned and operated companies in our industry and build a more diverse and inclusive membership.
- Identify ways to attract and develop diverse talent by marketing and promoting career opportunities in our industry through the Center for Growing Talent.
Participants expanded upon the actions that the task force is taking to achieve each objective.
Starting last September, PMA’s Board of Directors committed to advancing Diversity and Inclusion. We launched a Task Force to support this work, but with a bit of a twist: We are not experts on this topic. But are committed to learning and sharing what we learn with our Members.
To educate the industry, PMA has invited leading D&I experts both from within our industry, like Michael Byron, head of Supplier Diversity at Walmart and from outside our industry, like Eric Watson, who led an engaging exercise on Unconscious Bias with PMA and Center for Growing Talent Board and Staff.
This work is ongoing.
In addition to Virtual Town Halls like this one, PMA and CGT are rolling out several new programs and resources in April:
First, beginning April 20th, Center for Growing Talent by PMA will host a month-long Virtual Diversity and Inclusion Program, with weekly sessions scheduled on April 20th, April 27th, May 4th and May 11th.
The program is designed to focus on a sequence of topics that will build one on the other and provide resources and understanding of core Diversity and Inclusion topics.
Second, PMA is expanding its on-demand, online learning platform, Fresh Ed Academy, with four new Diversity & Inclusion certificate courses. Members can choose to enroll in a single class or a full certificate program.
Finally, building on its longstanding commitment to supporting women and gender equity and inclusion in our industry, Center for Growing Talent will host the Women’s Fresh Perspectives Conference in September and the Women’s Leadership Breakfast at Fresh Summit in October.
PMA and CGT are actively conducting outreach to our members to better understand the diversity of our current membership.
We are also collaborating with partners to identify women- and minority-owned and operated companies across the industry and connect them to resources and services that would meet their unique needs.
Through Center for Growing Talent’s talent attraction program, Career Pathways, we will continue to expand our university and college partnerships and engage and attract an increasingly diverse talent pool.
This will be done in part by reaching out and building relationships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, with a focus on Land Grant HBCUs.
This education, open dialogue and action is part of a long-term play to both bring awareness to and begin work on creating a more diverse and inclusive industry to better the fresh produce and floral industry and continue to grow a healthier world. PMA and CGT will continue to share objectives, resources and outcomes from this ongoing work.