Industry Leaders Discuss Male Allyship for Women in IFPA Town Hall; Peppe Bonfiglio, Mark Munger, Howard Nager, and Megan Nash Comment

Wed. July 6th, 2022 - by Melissa De Leon Chavez

SACRAMENTO, CA - I am a believer in the power of words and how their misuse or overuse can whittle that power down over time. Campaigns that fall short of becoming movements and become fads before they can take hold strongly enough to create change. I have worried “ally” is a word whose trajectory could slow over the tumult of the past few years, but a virtual gathering showed continued momentum.

Recently, Megan Nash, International Fresh Produce Association; Howard Nager, Pacific Trellis Fruit/Dulcinea Farms®; Peppe Bonfiglio, Mastronardi Produce®; and Mark Munger, 4Earth Farms™, gathered to discuss the impact of allyship—specifically of males allying with and for women in our industry.

Peppe Bonfiglio, Vice President of Sales, Mastronardi Produce®“I was taught that being an ally means to stand beside and not in front of someone. Being an ally to a movement does not mean leading it. To advocate for women, we have to start by listening to them,” Peppe shared with the audience, and again with me after the June 22 Town Hall took place.

It was a fantastic definition of the change being called for in fresh produce.

Last week, Megan Nash, International Fresh Produce Association; Howard Nager, Pacific Trellis/Dulcinea Farms®; Peppe Bonfiglio, Mastronardi Produce®; and Mark Munger, 4Earth Farms™, gathered to discuss the impact of allyship

All three men, each a leader in their own right, shared how they were honored but surprised when invited to the discussion because “ally” is not a word any of them thought to use.

Megan Nash, Director of Education and Talent, International Fresh Produce Association“You were all chosen by women in this industry as a representation of allies, so you are acting as an ally even though you don’t use or think of that word,” Megan pointed out.

The group discussed topics like influences in their own experience, positive changes from seeing women at the leadership table, and environments that discourage or stunt this progress.

Howard Nager, Director of Marketing and Business Development, Pacific Trellis Fruit/Dulcinea Farms®“I feel that being an ally is not only the right thing to do, but it also is good for business. I have experienced that the best allies are described as trustworthy, honest, helpful, caring, loyal, supportive, and good listeners. For allies to be effective in their roles, it requires the willingness to learn, patience to find the right balance, and taking the time to ask—not assume—what your colleague needs,” Howard reflected after the Town Hall. “We often want to do the right thing but don’t know how to approach it. Sometimes it’s as simple as just having the conversation: How can I better support you and your career goals?”

Howard, Peppe, and Mark all concurred too that moving in the right direction of change requires critical thinking to discern missing elements for which driving diversity and equality is a likely solution. Putting together the data, understanding and forming a hypothesis, and building a strategy to advocate for the underrepresented groups ensures results.

All three men pictured were elected by women in the industry as representing allies for a more women-forward produce culture

Likewise, recognizing where there is a frequent imbalance in representation, either as a whole or in who is getting promoted and is at the leadership table, can directly reflect if these necessary questions are not being addressed.

Mark Munger, Vice President, Marketing and Strategy, 4Earth Farms­™“I was very honored to be asked to speak on the panel this week about what it means to be an ally,” Mark shared with me. “Many of Megan’s questions were really challenging, but I think it’s critically important that we elevate the conversation about how we make our industry more inclusive and equal, not only for women, but for everyone. I am a firm believer that treating each other equally and celebrating our differences and our unique talents makes us stronger and smarter as an industry. Our industry is fortunate to have so many intelligent, talented, and professional women working alongside us, and I believe having open conversations like this one is a step in the right direction toward creating a more inclusive and accepting culture within the produce industry.”

I couldn't agree more, and I look forward to many more conversations like this one.