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 to 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.
Stumpf recalled how, at the start of her career with the NPMA, she helped organize breakfast and lunch meetings for women during PestWorld via the association’s Professional Women in Pest Management (PWIPM) council. At the time, attendance ranged from 20 to fewer than 12 — but it eventually evolved into large breakfast networking events with nearly 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, a woman’s career lifecycle, and recruitment and retention of female employees. Networking opportunities were built into the event, along with a fun virtual 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 NPMA Treasurer Marillian Missiti of Buono Pest Control Co. in Belmont. Mass. On Day Two, it was NPMA Secretary Faye Golden of Cook’s Pest Control in Decatur, Ala.
A Breaking Barriers panel discussion 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.; and Stacy O’Reilly, owner, Plunkett’s Pest Control, Fridley, Minn.
Dold, a member of the PMP Hall of Fame (Class of 2002), said the glass ceiling is stronger than ever, and shared advice related to her years of experiences in the pest management industry: be aware of implicit bias, ask for help and stay true to yourself. “Nobody is as special [and] unique as you are,” she said. “Don’t compromise standards or goals. Be yourself.”
O’Reilly talked about the opportunities for women and the need for pushing aside stereotypes. “Don’t feel the pressure to always be the one who has all the answers,” she added. “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 an industry powerhouse with 131 offices. “Know your strengths and weaknesses, and then act accordingly,” she advised.
“Permission to Screw Up” was presented by Kristen Hadeed, founder of Student Maid, a cleaning and concierge service company. She offered proof as to why 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. Hadeed discussed the importance of empathy, work-life harmony, intentionality and resilience, and advised women to reflect and recharge. 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. She also addressed the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on working women, observing that “if companies make an investment in a more flexible and empathetic workplace, we will have loyal employees forevermore.”
Executive coach and author Bonnie Marcus of Bonnie Marcus Leadership, focused on how women can gain success in the workplace, despite the barriers they may face. “It’s up to us to build relationships one-on-one with the people who may have influence over our careers,” she said.
Laura Robinson, recruiting director for ABC Home & Commercial Services in Lewisville, Texas, and Leila Haas, director of human resources at Sprague Pest Solutions, Tacoma, Wash., shared how their pest control companies recruit and retain female workers. Haas said the photos and language on your company website should reflect the type of individuals you are looking to hire. To aid recruitment efforts, Robinson’s company created a video featuring two female technicians explaining why they love working in pest control. “We are trying to show [women] there are career paths for them,” she said.
A fun networking reception closed out the first evening of the event. To make it extra special, 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.
Plans are underway to hold next year’s WLF in San Diego in November 2021.