SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Attendees of the 2013 Women’s Fresh Perspective Conference at the Fire Sky Resort April 21-23 left with many reasons to feel empowered as vital members of the fresh produce industry.

Conference gives women a fresh perspective on industryA variety of hands-on sessions and workshops offered suggestions on how women can contribute more to the success of their organizations.

Faculty members of the Simmons School of Management and leadership consultants gave attendees actionable advice on how to increase their business acumen, build their personal brand, enhance their strategic networks and negotiate more successfully.

Consultants included Theo Gilbert-Jamison, chief executive officer of Performance Solutions by Design, and Libby Gill, CEO of Libby Gill & Co.

Attendees met influential women in the industry who paved the road for female leadership, including Frieda Rapoport Caplan, founder and chairman of the board of Frieda’s Inc., and heard about success strategies in male-dominated industries.

“Frieda’s career started in mushrooms, so I can relate to her. Meeting Frieda personally has empowered me to express my ideas and thoughts as a woman in my organization,” said Julie Petrovick, director of marketing, To-Jo Fresh Mushrooms Inc.

Moving forward

Key conference takeaways for Daymara Baker, director of sales for Charlotte, N.C.-based Chiquita Brands International were how to take ownership and make a difference by leveraging the women’s insights,

Tammy Sparkman-Roberts, strategic market development manager for Leamington, Ontario-based Lakeside Produce, was eager to put to work what she learned in breakout sessions.

“I want to better promote my personal brand and embrace the differences between male and female leadership approaches, instead of competing with men in my organization,” she said.

Discussing these and other challenges women face in all levels of business with other women felt safe and comfortable to her, even though she would have liked more time to learn from the expertise of the seasoned leaders and speakers.

This desire to spend more time in smaller groups, as well as the opportunity to have more time to network, was shared by Leslie Simmons, marketing manager at Dave’s Specialty Produce Inc., Coral Springs, Fla.

“Being able to connect with women of all organizational and expertise levels who all share the same goals — to make their organizations more successful by growing as leaders — is such a tremendous opportunity. It would have been beneficial to have more of it,” she said.

Margi Prueitt, executive director of the Newark, Del.-based PMA Foundation for Industry Talent, took in the feedback but noted the format for next year’s event is not yet clear, although she promised there would be a second conference.

From all the feedback she received during the event, Prueitt said she was blown away by the positive response to the format.

“We did not hear from one person that the conference was not meeting their expectations. Instead, the conference exceeded them across the board,” she said.

Prueitt said 176 people attended.

Bettina Lindner Lippisch is General Manager of Red Book Credit Services, which is owned by Vance Publishing Corporation, owner of The Packer.