Women Empowerment in the Workplace

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Women Empowerment in the Workplace

Empowering Women in the Workplace

According to the United States Census Bureau, over the past several years, women only made up about one-quarter, (26.7%), of the production, transportation and material moving occupations within the manufacturing industry. While women historically make up a lower percentage in the workforce, this is more visible in the manufacturing industry. We are happy to say that our female workforce is above the national average at 34%. The female employees at Viwinco have made significant gains in workplace representation. Women are rising to the moment as strong leaders and are supporting their teams in advancing diversity and inclusion efforts. Viwinco has become a leader in practicing diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Here are some of the programs and women driving innovation and change at Viwinco.

Berks Women2Women

Berks Women2Women (W2W) is a special program for the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance’s catalyst for developing women leaders and connecting women from diverse backgrounds to learn, share ideas, and mentor each other. Viwinco encourages all of our employees to attended W2W events as a way to help them develop connections, gain knowledge, and build strategic alliances to foster career advancement. The Women2Women program features a diverse range of speakers across age, gender, background, and industry affiliation to show female representation throughout the Berks community. Several of our female employees have participated in and attended a number of W2W events, and feel that these events are extremely beneficial and inspiring. These events are great team-building experiences that help create bonds between our employees; sometimes work is too busy to really network within ourselves.

Women Empowerment Blog 2
Women Empowerment Blog

Fair Parental Leave Policies 

Viwinco has introduced several new changes to our Parental Leave Policy. As a family-owned and operated company, spending time with family is an important company value. The birth of a child or placement of a child in connection with adoption or foster care, is stressful in the sense of adjusting one’s personal life to accommodate another family member. Our President, David Barnes, believes that this type of time off should be spent bonding with family. This forward-thinking approach can be seen in the new four weeks of paid parental leave provided to eligible employees. The paid parental leave pay is compensated at 100% of the employee’s regular pay so that they can provide spousal support and care to their families. As a family-owned company, familial values are important principles at Viwinco, and we are happy to implement this policy now and for years to come.

Leadership & Diversity 

The call for gender diversity is about being inclusive and profitable. Diversifying a variety of top positions is more than a movement to level the corporate playing field but instead about using the best resources and candidates to maximize an organization’s potential. According to a Morgan Stanley report, gender diversity, particularly in corporate settings can translate to increased productivity, greater innovation, better products, better decision-making, and higher employee retention and satisfaction. From its beginnings, Viwinco has always encouraged female leadership and we are witnessing historically male-dominated fields such as engineering and manufacturing become more female-oriented. 

Viwinco Female Leadership

Viwinco has built a foundation around female leadership and takes pride in the exceptional work ethic shown by our female employees. We are lucky to have so many female employees as well as women in key leadership positions. We would’ve loved to have included everyone in this blog post but to keep it relatively short, let us introduce you to a few of our female leaders and their roles within the company.

Administration

Customer Service

Angelina Jacob

Angie_Women Blog

Angie graduated from Albright University with a BS in Business Administration. She began her career with Viwinco in November of 2008 as the receptionist after leaving her previous bartending job. She gained a lot of exposure to customer service, which provided her the necessary experience for her next role as a Customer Service Representative. Angie’s meticulous and methodical nature matched with her extensive product knowledge aided in her promotion to Customer Service Manager in 2015. She has drawn professional inspiration from her mother who has always been very independent and extremely confident. Angie has experienced resistance when working with men, but she gained this advice: “Working in the food and beverage industry for several years with customers being mainly all men, I’ve learned to not be easily offended. I am comfortable in my own skin and rarely feel resistance with male employees.” She feels that Viwinco has come a long way since she started. The diversification has grown immensely. “When I first came aboard it was mainly men who had the management positions, but now there are many female manager/supervisors that work at Viwinco. So, I do feel the company is great at diversifying.”

Marketing

Maria Duncan

Maria graduated from Kutztown University with a BFA in Communication Design. Before coming to Viwinco she worked at Clipper Magazine as a designer. She transisitoned to Viwinco in May of 2009 as an Executive Assistant. During her time as an assistant, she was given a plethora of design and marketing responsibilities. With the 2010 market crash, she took over Viwinco’s photography and design efforts. In 2018, Maria was promoted to Creative and Marketing Director. Maria was and still is inspired by Agatha and Amabel. “Working in a male-dominated industry, seeing how knowledgeable Aggie and Mabel are is pretty incredible. Not only are they under so much pressure, but they are always helpful and dependable.” Maria felt some resistance not only from her male coworkers but also from some female ones; she thinks it was a combination of how young and green she was and the management group that was in place when she first started working here. “Things have changed so much within the last ten years and it is very exciting to see where the future of Viwinco is heading to, it makes me very happy to be a part of this company!”

Accounting

Maricela Cornejo-Jimenez

Maricela_Women Blog

Maricela graduated from Kutztown University with a BS in Accounting. Before coming to Viwinco she worked at a public accounting firm as a staff accountant. She specialized in small business accounting and dealt with individual tax accounts. She joined Viwinco in August of 2018 as a Payroll Specialist/Accounting Assistant, where she excelled and was promoted to the company’s controller not long after. With the exception of the new intern, the accounting department is run by all females. Maricela has drawn professional inspiration from several other women. “I have had the opportunity to meet and work with amazing females throughout my career and personal life who have inspired me to continue to work on my goals. This has allowed me to become a better person and employee.” She has not experienced resistance when working with male employees and feels lucky to work with a good team of male coworkers and supervisors.

Manufacturing

Engineering

Gretchen Kusmierz

Gretchen_Women Blog

Gretchen graduated from Penn State with a BS in Industrial/Manufacturing Engineering. Before Viwinco, she worked at Carlisle, I.T. as the Value Stream Manager in their Assembly department. She joined Viwinco in June of 2021 as the Manufacturing Engineering Manager. As the only female engineer, Gretchen wants to see more diversity. “Engineering tends to be a male-dominated field, however, I do currently have two female interns, so maybe more women are choosing engineering as a profession.” She has drawn inspiration from other women in the industry and within Viwinco. 

``I once worked with a woman who was the Director of Manufacturing Operations and I found her to be a great inspiration. I have also been inspired by many other women within the various organizations I have worked at, some in totally different fields. There are many different reasons that I find inspiration from people – some handle conflict well, some lead and inspire others, some conduct themselves very professionally, some are really knowledgeable.”

Gretchen has occasionally experienced resistance while working with male coworkers. She believes that there is a perception that a female would not have the same background or problem-solving skills needed to get a job done. “I think there is diversity at Viwinco although our leadership tends to be mostly men. There needs to be more women working in this industry.”

Jacquelin Tran

Jacquelin is an Industrial Engineering student at Temple University. She is currently working as an Engineering Intern, reporting to Gretchen. She feels that there is a lot of diversity at Viwinco and enjoys working with Gretchen. “Gretchen does a great job at being a leader and she makes sure that we are getting plenty of real-life, professional experience.” Jacquelin thinks that there needs to be more female representation in the engineering field at Viwinco and in general. Without having much work experience, the only male resistance she has faced has been on campus and in the classroom. She says, “At school, my male classmates tend to oversimplify concepts that they feel I won’t be able to understand solely because I am a female. I think that this is unfair and needs to change.” Overall, she is enjoying her internship and likes working at Viwinco.

Prudence Culver

Prudence is a Mechanical Engineering student at Penn State-Harrisburg. She is also working as an Engineering Intern, reporting to Gretchen. She feels that Viwinco is a very diverse company but thinks that there should be more female engineers. She is grateful for this internship and says, “I like Viwinco because it is still a small, growing company and I feel like I’m growing as the company grows.” She also likes Gretchen as a manager and enjoys that she is made to feel equal to the other senior engineers and not that she’s only an intern. Without much work experience, Prudence has felt resistance from male classmates. “Engineering is very male-dominated and I don’t think that they are used to having women in this line of work. Instead of displaying blatant disrespect towards me, they tend to be more ignorant. I feel like I have to prove myself to be taken seriously.”

Production

Agatha “Aggie” Maldonado

Aggie_Women Blog

Aggie grew up in Puerto Rico and worked for Godiva Chocolate before coming to Viwinco. She joined the team in 1993 and worked on Lines 2 and 3. Gaining valuable experience, she moved to Production Assistant and was promoted to Production Supervisor in 2012. Aggie feels that women are well-represented throughout the company but there needs to be more leadership diversity in manufacturing and production. Aggie drew a lot of inspiration from men rather than women because women weren’t as prevalent in production as they are today. “I have experienced resistance from men, especially when my title first changed to Production Supervisor. Most didn’t want to listen to what I had to say and tested me to see if I actually knew what I was talking about. When I proved myself as a strong leader and showed them that I had the industry knowledge to back up what I said then I became well-respected.” Aggie believes that there is a lot of diversity and Viwinco does a good job at making sure women are in leadership roles.

Amabel Velazquez

Amabel_Women Blog

Before coming to Viwinco, Amabel worked at Ames Distribution Center as an order picker. She started working at Viwinco in 2002 as an assembler and was eventually promoted to her current position as Batching Coordinator. She believes that Viwinco is a diverse company, and there are many women in leadership roles. The one person she has drawn the most inspiration from is her sister. “My sister is a go-getter and has accomplished so much. She was in the army, and then a police officer and is now Deputy Chief at her police department. She is very outgoing and I look up to her a lot.” Amabel has never, at a previous job or at Viwinco, felt any type of resistance or pushback from her male coworkers. She feels that she is respected by everyone, men and women alike, and that Viwinco does a good job at diversifying leadership.

Stacy Lukes

Stacy_Women Blog

Stacy worked as a Production Supervisor at Cadence before coming to Viwinco. She started here in August of 2021 as a Production Supervisor, managing the intercept lines. She said that drawing inspiration from women was difficult. “I have been one of the only women working as a production supervisor in my previous roles. I’ve worked with all men and have drawn inspiration from them.” Stacy feels that women are represented fairly at Viwinco and are given the same amount of responsibilities as their male counterparts. She has experienced resistance from men because they were not used to working for a woman. “Because I was new and they had never worked for a woman before, there was some resistance. Once I gained their trust, I was given the respect I deserved.”

Human Resources

Business

Stephanie Guerrero

Stephanie is continuing her education at Reading Area Community College (RACC) and will receive a BS in Business Administration. Before Viwinco, she worked as a private banker at Wells Fargo. She joined Viwinco in 2017 as a Jr. H.R. Business Partner. “Females are well-represented in our department. The H.R. department is an all-female team with the exception of our director, Zach Kuhn.” Stephanie has drawn professional inspiration from her co-workers Lori Leisey, Elena Kollar, and Maricela Cornejo-Jimenez.” Working for Viwinco, she does not feel any resistance from male employees. “I feel that everyone respects my position and the role I play to make the business successful.” Stephanie also feels that Viwinco does a good job at diversifying leadership and that we have many women in leadership roles such as Marketing, Accounting, H.R., Customer Service, and Engineering. She also had this to say about our involvement with W2W: “I think these events are very beneficial! It is nice to hear how other women are growing in male-dominated fields. We have gotten advice on how to deal with complex situations and also continue to build a network with other women and I think that is powerful.”

Steph & Elena_Women Blog

Elena Kollar

Elena graduated from Kutztown University with a BS in Biology. Before Viwinco, she worked for J.P. Mascaro as an H.R. Generalist and Recruiter. She came to Viwinco in April of 2021 as an H.R. Generalist. She feels that Viwinco’s Human Resources team is strongly represented by women. “Women outnumber men in this department and it is exciting to see. I think Viwinco does a great job at diversifying women in leadership roles. Manufacturing tends to be typically male-dominated but despite this, every department has a woman in a managerial role.” Elena was and still is inspired by her mom. “My mom worked hard to advance in her career. Despite not having a college degree, my mom was able to direct her department using her strong work ethic.” She credits her own work ethic to her mom and tries to be the best version of herself every day. Since entering the workforce, Elena has never experienced any resistance from male employees. “I have found that male employees tend to be respectful and professional. In fact, I started my H.R. career having male mentors who were eager to share their knowledge of the Human Resources Industry with me.” She had this to say about our involvement with W2W. “It’s amazing the company supports this program. It allows the women of the company to interact outside of the workplace and gives us an opportunity to network with women from other companies. You never know what you will learn or who you will meet along the way.”

Safety

Sharon Flory

Sharon_Safety Post

Sharon graduated from Wilson College with a BS in Environmental Science. Before Viwinco, she worked as the Environmental Safety and Health Coordinator for six-years at a chemical company in Leesport. She is currently on the Board of Directors for the National Partnership for Environmental Technology Education’s (PETE) national training program and the President of the National Environmental, Safety and Health Training Association (NESHTA). She came to Viwinco in June of 2021 as the Environmental Health and Safety Manager. So far in this role, Sharon has: implemented both the 10-hr general industry and 30-hr managerial OSHA training programs, reduced Viwinco’s DART rate by 43% using Job Safety Analyses (JSA’s), started a first-aid team and has reinvented the new hire onboarding process. In the future she plans to: form a safety committee, write a complete health and safety program, obtain a Voluntary Protection Program (VPP), and work with the I.T. Department to include help buttons throughout the manufacturing plant, so there’s improved confidence in medical support. Sharon is the entire safety department and hopes to see more women hired to her team in the near future. She has drawn inspiration from several women at Viwinco: 

“I am inspired by Gretchen, who has proven that upper management is hands-on and has helped me improve time-management. I am also inspired by Maricela because she is easy to work with and extremely knowledgeable. Aggie knows the ins and outs of the entire plant and has helped me learn the personnel working in different departments. As you know, there are a lot of strong and inspiring women working here.”

Sharon also said that she has experienced resistance from men, but not because she is female. “I’ve experienced resistance because I was new. I had to build a relationship with my coworkers to reassure them that I knew what I was talking about which in turn led to respect.” Sharon feels that one of the bonuses of working for Viwinco is the diversity and how well respected she feels from all employees.

Information Technology

Technician

Alannah Merritt

Alannah_Women Blog

Alannah graduated from Fairfield University with a BS in Computer Science. She came to Viwinco fresh out of college in June of 2021 as an I.T. Technician. She believes that Viwinco does a great job diversifying leadership roles but believes her department needs more women. “There are only three women working in I.T. – Mallory, Natalia and myself – and one day I would love to see those numbers grow. Other departments have women in important leadership positions, and they inspire me.” She has not experienced resistance from her male coworkers and feels that everyone has been extremely respectful and welcoming.

Equal Work and Experience

Viwinco has become more female-centric over the past several years and this can be seen in our strong female leadership team. Providing networking opportunities and events catered directly towards women gives our employees the chance to further themselves both personally and professionally. Our Director of Human Resources, Zach Kuhn, says, “I believe that promoting women into leadership positions is beneficial for the company. Doing so allows our male employees an opportunity to learn and gain knowledge from female leadership. I believe Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained it best when she said, ‘Women belong in all places where decisions are made. It shouldn’t be that they are the exception.’ This quote embodies Viwinco’s initiatives and leadership.” We pride ourselves on our diversity here at Viwinco and value the knowledge, skills and leadership our employees bring to the table. Today, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, we want to acknowledge and thank all of the women at Viwinco for their contributions to the company and for making Viwinco an industry-leading employer.