Fierce Females in Package Printing: Catherine Heckman — Leaning into the Power of Performance
Packaging Impressions’ Fierce Female series returns with a spotlight on Catherine Heckman, business director, North America, flexible packaging and narrow web, Bostik. A big thank you to Lori Campbell for collaborating with Packaging Impressions to create this series and to all the women participating for sharing their inspirational stories.
This is my 33rd year in labels and packaging! I was working my way through college when I stumbled on an ad in the paper for a product manager for Technicote. At the time, I worked for an environmental and civil engineering firm and needed to do something different. When I interviewed with Technicote, I thought labels are so interesting, and the people who would be my bosses used to work for Fasson, which is now Avery. So I gave it a shot and found a home, made many friends, learned a business, built a career, and am learning every day. I still have the ad that I cut from the paper and greatly impacted my life.
Diversity and inclusion mean a lot to me. When I started, this industry was very male-dominated. When women were hired, they were typically placed in customer service or human resources roles. When Technicote hired me, I think I was the first woman to break that mold in their history.
Because of my start, I felt it was crucial the packaging industry become more diverse from a female perspective. So now we’re starting to move into more ethnic diversity, which is important because gender and race diversity brings interesting perspectives and new ways to do business.
Because it’s Women’s History Month, we have an opportunity to stress the importance of gender diversity. Women have a history of bringing more empathy and understanding to the table, making people feel more seen and included in the business. That sense of inclusion makes employees want to stay with a company and give it their all.
Women also have a history of thinking differently and managing differently. This, combined with the expanded bandwidth of inclusion, can make businesses more innovative, especially when people from different cultures feel empowered to bring their different thought processes to the businesses.
This is a great question! Early in my career, I came into this heavily male-dominated industry, and many people assumed I was a clerk — not a professional. I overcame that pre-judgment by understanding that I had to show the men who doubted me what I bring to the table. I remembered thinking about my options at the time and deciding that the option I would take was not failing. I worked hard to prove that I deserved that seat at the table. I like that this mindset has changed over the years, and many of my male peers understand that women can succeed in many roles.
I’m passionate about understanding other people, which then turns into connecting with other people. This happens in all types of activities and environments, from reading human interest stories to my yoga practice.
What’s interesting — in the context of this interview — is how amazing the yoga community has been in increasing its diversity. When I started practicing 12 years ago, I would be in classes that were almost 100% women. Of course, there would be an occasional rugby team, but generally, the yoga community was female. Now, there’s nearly a 60/40 split between women and men, and it’s great to see more gender diversity with more men coming into the community.
Not only is there more gender diversity, but there is also more racial diversity. It’s great to see people from all types of backgrounds coming into the community and bringing new perspectives to the practice.
This search for human connection extends into my overseas travel. When I travel to other countries, I educate myself about the diverse ways other communities approach life and learn to see things from their perspectives.