PHOENIX — Though they might be outnumbered at their individual companies, women in the produce industry found strength in numbers at the 2014 PMA Foundation Women’s Fresh Perspectives Conference.

The conference, April 27-29, was was the second conference exclusively for the produce industry’s existing and aspiring female leaders, promoting the value they bring to their organizations.

Margi Prueitt, executive director of the PMA Foundation for Industry Talent and senior vice president at the association, said the conference is designed to create an experience to meet the needs of a wide variety of female leaders — from those just starting in leadership roles to those who have many years in the industry but continue to build their leadership expertise.

Women focus on strengths at PMA conferenceApril McDaniel, quality manager at Nichols Farms, Hanford, Calif., said she was encouraged by meeting other female professionals in the industry.

“Being the only female in management, and realizing that you are having the same challenges as other leaders, makes you feel less alone and it gives you a little more strength,” she said.

Autumn Bernier, chief information officer and systems manager at Allan Bros. Inc., Naches, Wash., came away with ideas to put into practice.

“As a woman in the industry, you feel overwhelmed at times”, she said. “Being surrounded by so many brilliant women, gives me that much more to strive for.”

Women focus on strengths at PMA conferenceRepeat attendee Kellee Harris, western region manager for the Giumarra Cos., Los Angeles, was so impressed with the 2013 conference, she brought three other women this year and hopes to bring even more next year.

Julie Lucido, CEO of Marketing Plus, Fresno, Calif., another second-time attendee, returned because of the networking.

“It was very impactful to see how many women are in produce and to get them all together in one place at the same time,” she said. “I brought three of my staffers with me so they can grow from the experience and take back lessons as well so we can be a stronger organization overall.”

Sessions included topics on leveraging women’s unique skills, understanding personal strength and weaknesses and putting them to work in an often male-dominated environment.