On August 26, we celebrate Women’s Equality Day, which commemorates the 1920 adoption of the 19th Amendment prohibiting voter discrimination based on gender.
Nearly 100 years later, much of society still struggles to implement total equality and inclusion. This is especially true throughout the business world, most often in traditionally male-dominated industries.
But Leanna von Merveldt, the vice president of Human Resources at Global Widget – a leading CBD products manufacturer and distributor – sees an opportunity today to not only advance workplace diversity and equal rights at her company, but throughout an entire industry.
“That’s one of the cool things about Global Widget and the Hemp industry — it’s all new,” she said. “We have the opportunity today as a company and as an industry to set the standard for diversity and gender equality.”
Based in Tampa, Florida, and founded in 2016, Global Widget is still a young company. And while hemp could be considered one of the oldest industries on the planet, the modern hemp industry has only taken off since earlier bans on cultivating the plant have been lifted — most recently with the 2018 Farm Bill.
“I see a chance to mold our policies, our company and our entire industry to how we want it to be: truly diverse and inclusive,” Leanna said.
Employment and Advancement Opportunities
Construction, software, energy, insurance and manufacturing represent the breadth of male-dominated industries that Leanna has experienced as an HR professional. Although Global Widget is also a manufacturer and distributor, Leanna said it is one of the most diverse and inclusive companies she has worked for.
“One of the things that drew me to Global Widget is the diversity and the number of females that I saw on the leadership team when I interviewed to join the company,” she said.
Global Widget currently employs 200 people, with more set to on-board within the coming weeks. Of these 200 employees, 125 are women. More impressive is that out of the 28 upper management positions within the company, 11 are held by women.
And just as Global Widget, with one of the largest facilities in the country, aims to lead the industry when it comes to cGMP manufacturing standards, quality control and FDA compliance, it also wants to lead in diversity.
Leanna believes that creating a welcoming environment inclusive of women not only in entry-level positions but also within management encourages other women to keep pushing for change.
Having a woman leading the charge for workplace fairness and quality healthcare at Global Widget means a brighter future for expectant mothers…and fathers too. The company is currently looking to expand benefits to provide additional support during the transition from parental leave back into the workplace.
“I have two young children, and although I don’t plan to have additional kids,” Leanna said, “I am very familiar with the challenges of returning to work just 12 short weeks after having a baby… I would love to be able to provide a little bit more assistance for women here to be able to make that transition a little easier.”
These types of benefits not only help the families, Leanna said, but they can also boost employer-employee relationships and strengthen company morale and loyalty.
“It can help with retention when employees know that they’re valued and that we’ll be here waiting for them when they return.”
The gender wage gap has closed considerably over the past 30 years. However, in 2018 women still earned about 0.85 cents to the dollar compared to men. But that’s not the case at Global Widget, Leanna expressed. The company sees the value in its employees and pays them according to what they bring to the table. Von Merveldt knows from first-hand experience with her own hiring process and through her role with new hire offers.
“My offer was very fair for my experience,” she said. “That pay gap is something I experienced in a previous organization. It’s very frustrating when you’re working hard and have similar roles and backgrounds as your male counterparts, but you know you’re not being paid the same. Here, I don’t see that at all. I think having females in upper leadership helps with that.”
Global Widget also invests in the future of its female employees. Each month, the company hosts a Women in Leadership luncheon aimed at helping women navigate the workplace and advance in their professional careers. Guest speakers from different industries share their experiences and offer advice that sticks with women beyond their time at the company.
The women’s rights and diversity movements still have a way to go to achieve total equality, but they are constantly making progress. New companies like Global Widget are influencing entire industries to give women and all individuals the chance to reach their full potential – starting in the workplace.