Diverse Perspectives Are Key to Success

Ruby McCleary, United Airlines’ director of supplier diversity, is committed to investing in diverse suppliers and talent. Recently awarded the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, or WBENC, Applause Award for her work in expanding opportunities for women in business in the last 15 years, McCleary hopes to be an advocate for women’s business development. As chair of the WBENC Board’s Programs Committee, she helps make sure that the WBENC mission and core values are embedded within the organization’s programs.

Why should businesses invest in developing female employees?

Diversity of ideas and experience is valuable no matter the industry. The more unique perspectives the better. And it’s more than just good PR or rhetoric; diverse perspectives are particularly imperative for business strategy. The consumer landscape in the United States is growing more diverse each year, and it’s important for business leadership to reflect those changes in order to grow. Women continue to be one of the fastest-growing economic forces, and without their participation in business decisions and their role in leadership positions, companies are missing out on a vital perspective of our economy.

I’m lucky that I have worked at companies that not only believe in investing in women, but also put those beliefs into action. At United, we know that each woman brings a wide array of knowledge and expertise to the table, and together we make the company not only a great airline, but a great place to work, too.

What are some of the best development programs geared toward women in business?

United has had a longstanding relationship with WBENC, the global leader in women’s business development. Their mission is to fuel economic growth globally through access to opportunities by identifying, certifying and facilitating the development of women-owned businesses.

As chair of the WBENC Program Committee, I work with members to ensure WBENC delivers relevant and up-to-date training and opportunities to women-owned businesses.

The WBENC Tuck program is an intensive, five-day executive management program that provides women-owned businesses access to top thought leaders across the country. The program focuses primarily on increasing the competitive advantage of each participant’s business. They also offer a scholarship program to provide women business owners with up to $11,000 each in tuition to a WBENC-approved executive education program/school of her choice.

What has been your experience using/creating these development programs?

Working with both WBENC and United has given me the opportunity to grow, develop and provide leadership that contributes to the success of the organization. My goal is to share that knowledge with everyone that I can. I strive to reach one and teach one. This proverb guides my work: “If you give a man a fish he eats for the day, but if you teach a man to fish, he eats for life.”

At United, one of the most exciting programs I’ve worked on is our Women’s Forum. Recently, our female executives saw the need to ensure the succession of women in leadership and launched a grassroots effort. The Women’s Forum is hosted by female executives and gives women the opportunity to network with each other. This access to female executives allows other aspiring females to ask questions and receive coaching, something that has been invaluable to me throughout my career. These leaders are personally vested in making sure we are successful and are given the tools we need to do our jobs.

This fall United will launch a Women’s Business Council to provide women’s perspective and voice to each department and help United provide better products and services to its customers. ?Our customers come from all walks of life and cultures, so it’s important that our leadership reflects our business operations and our customer service values those individualities.

These programs have given me the passion to see others’ success and have the same opportunities for development I had.

How have you overcome workplace challenges as a woman in business?

Throughout my career, there have been a few instances where I was the only woman on the team. I’ve found that being knowledgeable in my area of expertise and being able to articulate ideas is incredibly valuable, no matter who you are. When you’re able to demonstrate your value, the sky should be the limit.

Jessica DuBois-Maahs is an editorial intern at Diversity Executive magazine. She can be reached at editor@diversity-executive.com.