Diversity and inclusion in the workforce is a priority for many organizations today. In some cases, a business will focus so heavily on acquiring the diversity piece that it will forget about the importance of inclusion. Having a diverse workforce means nothing if you’re not creating an environment where employees are accepted and proud to be their authentic selves. One group at Staples that embodies this mission is Women Who Lead. An employee-led steering committee, Women Who Lead hosts several events throughout the year to foster an environment that empowers female employees to succeed as business leaders. Most recently, the group has hosted a monthly Coffee Talk series to discuss trending work-related articles, podcasts, videos and books. The meetings are a time to build relationships with different colleagues from around the organization as well as a place to discuss some of the challenges many women experience throughout their careers. In December, the group met to discuss the struggles of work-life balance and how to find a happy medium with a packed schedule. A rather timely topic for the holiday season!
After coffee, we sat down with committee chair, Bernie, to learn what it’s like to be a leader at Staples, advice she would give to women starting their careers and how she’s able to balance it all.
What’s your career journey, Bernie? What led you to Staples?
In 2005, I joined the company as a Senior Finance Manager. I had heard about Staples’ amazing growth story through former colleagues and I wanted to be a part of that success. After some major acquisitions and the creation of the supply chain center of excellence, my responsibilities expanded and I was promoted to Director of Finance. In October 2017, I moved from finance to supply chain as a Director of Operations Planning & Support, which led to my current role as the VP of Engineering & Operations Support. I would say it’s been quite the journey!
What advice would you give to a young woman starting out in her career?
There is so much I have learned over the course of my tenure that I would share. I would start by telling her to build a short, medium and long-term plan for her career much like one would for personal financial goals. Additionally, I’d tell her to follow her passion, to put in the necessary effort and be open-minded to all opportunities as she will learn and grow from each experience. It is important to take advantage of opportunities to lead projects and teams, to not be afraid to step outside of one’s comfort zone and to never fear failure – every experience is a lesson learned!
What’s the best thing about being a leader at Staples?
For me, it’s having the opportunity to coach individuals and watch them develop into leaders themselves. Nothing is more fulfilling than seeing your team’s efforts make a positive impact on the business.
What is your best advice for maintaining a healthy work-life balance?
Make sure to look ahead. By creating a plan, you will naturally figure out how to incorporate a balance that is right for you, your family and your goals. If something is important to you, figure out a way to make sure it is part of your life.
What drove you to become involved with Women Who Lead?
I got involved with Women Who Lead because I was seeking an opportunity to help others build their skill sets. I started by teaching classes on personal financial management. Given that I had a strong financial background, it was a great opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and teach others a subject that I was passionate about. After a while, I was presented with another opportunity – to be a co-chair. This has been a wonderful privilege.
At Staples, we believe it’s important to foster an environment that empowers women to exceed in the workplace and beyond. Through passionate leaders like Bernie and her Women Who Lead committee, we hope to continue building dynamic and inclusive teams.
Experience our culture of inclusion and join the team – view open roles here.