Skip to main content

Impacting women’s leadership in Northeast Wisconsin

Schreiber Foods pledges ‘substantial’ gift to UWGB’s Institute for Women’s Leadership

share arrow printer bookmark flag

May 5, 2023

NORTHEAST WISCONSIN – In just its second year, the Institute for Women’s Leadership’s annual Women on the Rise event – this year dubbed Celebrate 2023: Phenomenally You – nearly doubled its attendance and included the announcement of a substantial donation from Schreiber Foods.

Ron Dunford, Schreiber Foods president and CEO, shared the news with the more than 500 people in attendance – both in-person at the Weidner Center and virtually at the Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce.

“Personal growth and leadership development – especially for women leaders – is extremely important to me, and it’s important to Schreiber,” he said. “We’re proud to have our name tied to an organization that advances women both personally and professionally. It’s a gift that will help not just sustain but build the program for women leaders for decades to come.”

Dunford said he’s been asked and will likely continue to be asked, “Why? – why make a donation to the institute?”

“For the ability to be able to make a difference, for the ability to be able to make an impact and for the ability to be able to provide something that will hopefully last for decades and impact thousands of people,” he said. “The world needs more women leaders.”

The Celebrate 2023: Phenomenally You event also included a keynote delivered by Mariana Atencio, an award-winning journalist and motivational speaker.

Sustainable resource
Launching in March 2021, the institute – now called the Schreiber Foods Institute for Women’s Leadership at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (UWGB) – aims to inspire women throughout all stages of their professional careers, through networking events, workshops, memberships, discussions and more.

Janet Bonkowski, the institute’s executive director, said the gift from Schreiber Foods – which establishes an endowment – allows the institute to become a sustaining resource for women in Northeast Wisconsin.

“The university needs and values partners like Schreiber who join UWGB in addressing community problems,” she said.

Bonkowski said support from corporate partners like Schreiber Foods sends a strong message that a focus on women’s leadership development is “critical to grow and sustain our region.”

UWGB Chancellor Mike Alexander said the institute was established in recognition of the region’s growing need for a pipeline of women leaders.

“We are proud to be a university that supports women at all stages of their careers,” he said. “Schreiber’s gift makes it even more possible for us to expand our efforts to empower women.”

Sheryl Van Gruensven, UWGB’s chief business officer/senior vice chancellor for institutional strategy and one of the founders of the institute, said Schreiber’s financial commitment to women’s leadership validates not only the need but the value of the institute’s initiatives.

“(It) signals to other organizations that now is the time to invest in women and their leadership journeys,” she said.

Focused research
Bridget Krage O’Connor, owner and president of O’Connor Connective and the institute’s inaugural executive in residence, said the support of Schreiber Foods will allow the institute and UWGB to continue looking at ways to be able to do more research that is specific to Northeastern Wisconsin.

“So, we can understand how things are playing out here and then know what we need to do about it so we can help more organizations be successful in recruiting and retaining exceptional leaders and therefore translate that into profitability,” she said.

According to a survey deployed by the institute in 2021, of the 823 respondents (which includes women at every level of their career – from entry-level to C-Suite), almost half reported a lack of opportunity for advancement and growth, noting it as the major reason for low job satisfaction.

The study also showed that almost half of the respondents said feeling burned out was a “definite” challenge at work – with 38% reporting feeling overwhelmed.

Less than half of the surveyed women agreed they had career advancement opportunities – with just 34% saying their workplace is doing what it takes to support female employees.

O’Connor said when she was born, only about 4-5% of businesses were women-owned.

// 500 people attended the Schreiber Foods Institute for Women’s Leadership’s annual Women on the Rise event. Photo Courtesy of UWGB

She said those numbers have changed significantly since – with almost half of the businesses in America being owned by women.

“The challenge is that 90% of those businesses are solopreneurs,” she said. “We have a challenge with being able to understand that if we want to grow that business – how do we do it? If we want to take on the risk of lending, how do we do that? And it still makes sense we might be averse to going to a bank because it was 1974 before we could even go and take out a loan for a business without a male cosigner.”

O’Connor said it was also only in 2009 when the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was passed, which prohibited sex-based wage discrimination between men and women.

“So, we have policies that have been coming along, and we have workforce issues that have been coming along,” she said, “but now is the moment to see major corporations like Schreiber Foods step up and say, ‘We believe in women leaders, so let’s make a move on some of these things so we can retain women leaders and ensure we have the flexibility and the opportunities they deserve.”

O’Connor said the single most important takeaway of the survey is that women employees are under pressure at home and at work.

She said the objective of the Schreiber Foods Institute for Women’s Leadership is to help women, and the organizations they work for, address and adapt to the needs of women.

“To know this leading and innovative company understands the potential of women professionals – well, it’s simply validating,” she said. “Schreiber partners are paving the way for more to join us as we look intentionally at advancing a key component of our economic progress as a region by advancing women’s leadership.”

O’Connor said investing in and championing women leaders is also supportive of the economy.

She said according to research conducted by McKinsey & Company, organizations are more financially viable when they have women in key leadership positions.

“Yet, IBM’s new report shows women remain underrepresented in middle management and that negatively impacts the pipeline of female leaders to drive bottom-line results,” she said.

O’Connor said the more women are able to discuss, prepare and develop their skills, “we will see more women applying for top jobs at the organizations that understand why and how women’s leadership is different and uniquely impactful.”

“When leadership teams are diverse, organizations will be able to successfully fill the pipelines they need for future growth and success,” she said. “And that’s a win we want to see here in Northeast Wisconsin.”

When companies like Schreiber collaborate with the institute, O’Connor said “we will learn more about the specific needs within organizations and design programming and opportunities to help meet the needs of professional women – thereby advancing Northeast Wisconsin’s economy in a powerful way.”

share arrow printer bookmark flag

Trending View All Trending