In today’s DIVE blog Naissa Von Pein, Director of Indirect Spend and Procurement Excellence at Dole Sunshine Group, discusses her personal experiences as a female in supply chain and shares her thoughts about accelerating diversity and inclusion as well as advice she has for other women looking to be fearless.   

What do diversity and inclusion mean to you professionally and personally

Being half German and half Brazilian, I grew up in both countries, so I had the opportunity to learn from two different cultures. I have taken this experience with me, and I have implemented it in how I communicate with people and, to the same extent, how I see my peers, especially women.

In my travels and world experience, I have come across so many inspiring people. Young women and young men from very simple backgrounds in different countries, taking the big step of challenging the world and challenging the workplace to create their dreams. I don’t differentiate based on gender, racial background, culture, or religion. I focus on evaluating individuals based on their skills and capabilities.

If you had to look back on your career and think about something that you would have done differently to accelerate acceptance and inclusion, what would that be?

I have to say that I have been very lucky with my career path. I’m quite happy with it, but ultimately it comes down to hard work. To some extent, I have to say that being a woman in supply chain, doesn’t make it easier, it’s rather the contrary. So, we must work hard, we must prove that we are here to show that we deserve a seat at the table – and we have to make people listen to us. I think when it comes to being successful in the career path that you choose, it comes down to the factors of owning your skills and working hard.

But at the same time, it’s not always easy. I encountered a situation where I faced discrimination because I was a woman. But I managed to come back strong again afterward; I had to work harder again, to build again. I think the larger important lesson about coming back from a setback is realizing how to prevent it from happing again.

There are women who are starting their careers in supply chain, what is your advice? Where do they push the boundaries? And as someone in upper management, what do you do to make sure that these women succeed?

My advice is to never stop believing in yourself. Be convinced of your capabilities. Make your managers, your supervisors, your team members listen to your opinions, and don’t shy away. I think as a woman, there is a tendency to doubt ourselves. Don’t be afraid of bringing up new ideas or challenging your male colleagues. Some young women starting in supply chain have a problem speaking up. As a manager, I always try to open the doors for my team. Very often people walk into the room and very quickly seats are taken. Just go into the front. Sit beside top management and engage them in a conversation.

Does Dole have a mentorship program for women? Do you do some interesting initiatives that help women come up the ladder?

There are a healthy number of women sitting in management teams and I am one of them. Everybody is fantastic, but what is still missing – which is something I’ve noticed at different companies – and by talking to many other women in the same sector of supply chain and management, is a lack of women supporting women. It is very easy to say that you have a network of women who support each other, but very often within a company environment, we still don’t give each other the support that we need.

So, my belief is that as a woman, we should always support each other, build a network, communicate, and speak openly. If I had the opportunity of speaking out more and talking about it with my peers, I believe that many other young women would have been encouraged as well. It’s about sharing experiences, supporting each other, and giving the opportunity to speak in front of others.