The Untapped Talent Pool

by Michelle Jobst, CPMR, Jobst Incorporated

In May of this year I participated in my first meeting as a member of the MANA Board of Directors. As the first female to occupy such a position in the association’s 70-year history, a number of thoughts went through my mind as I met with other Board members and MANA executives. The first thing was how gratifying it feels to give back to an organization that has given me so much. Also, how much I look forward to more women joining us at the table as we grow our association well into the future.

As we think about succession planning within our organizations, you may not realize a hidden resource in the market. There are more professional, educated, female entrepreneurs in the talent pool than ever before.

Consider for a moment the following: According to reporting on CNBC, in recent years, the rate of female entrepreneurs has been growing at a percentage at least double that of their male counterparts. In addition, women currently comprise 40 percent of new entrepreneurs in the United States. That’s the highest percentage since 1996, according to the 2016 Kauffman Index of Startup Activity. Those figures would indicate to me that entrepreneurial opportunities for women are plentiful right now.

In a TED Talks presentation, Susan Colantuono, CEO of Leading Women, a consulting firm supporting corporate initiatives to advance women, made the point that in the United States, 50 percent of middle management and professional positions were occupied by women. Just considering that 50 percent figure alone, it makes sense to tap into the numbers that talent pool represents. In addition, since the numbers of women involved in business (and in entrepreneurial ventures especially) don’t show any signs of decreasing, it just makes sense to involve them in an agency’s present and future (i.e., succession) plans.

In order to take advantage of those opportunities a number of steps must be taken. This field is not often on the radar when women are considering career moves. It will take an invitation to get more candidates to consider a profession that I love and one that I count myself fortunate to be a member of. At the outset, women should either invite themselves in or be invited to the profession.

I was lucky in that I received an invitation from my father to join his profession. Like so many other young people, I’m not sure as I was growing up that I truly understood what my father did for a living. Sure, I helped out by performing a number of tasks for the agency, everything from going on sales calls with him, helping with literature, and role playing calling the factory on my Fisher-Price phone. But if you asked me what he did for a living, I would have said he does something with rubber and plastics. When it comes right down to it, as a kid I wanted to be an airline pilot; it took an invitation for me to consider the possibility. It became the perfect fit for me.

What I’d like to emphasize in my first editorial to the MANA membership is how important it is to appreciate the benefits of extending an invitation to others — especially women — to join this profession.

Just as important as inviting women into the profession, however, is the point of training and educating them as to what it means to be a rep. In her TED Talks presentation, Colantuono emphasized the critical need to mentor newcomers. During the mentoring process, however, she cautioned about differences in working with males and females. She cited the experience of one global company executive who related that when “I had two protégés — a man and a woman — I helped the woman build confidence and the man learn the business — I didn’t realize I was treating them differently!”

As we plan for the long-term future of our carefully crafted businesses we should be aware of this largely, untapped, female entrepreneurial pool that is professional, well-trained and educated.

Michelle Jobst, CPMR, is a graduate of the College of St. Catherine, St Paul, Minnesota with degrees in speech communications and international business economics. Jobst has over 20 years experience in technical sales; her work history includes experience in customer service and export. She is a member of the Rubber Division, ACS (American Chemical Society) and SPE (Society of Plastic Engineers). While she started working at Jobst Incorporated in 1994, she grew up with the business in her home when her father started out in 1978.