Earlier this year, HNI Corporation’s Leslie Eichelberger, Director of Sales Engagement, and Mandy Parchert, Member and Community Relations Business Partner, attended a women in leadership conference in Cedar Rapids. While there, they learned how Kenwood Leadership Academy started a program where girls meet with women from area businesses for lunch to learn about their careers. After the conference, Eichelberger and Parchert decided to bring a version of the program to Muscatine. “When we saw all the young leaders, we knew we wanted to bring it to Muscatine,” said Parchert.
Eichelberger and Parchert reached out to Grant Elementary School to pilot their Leaders Who Lunch (LWL) program. As a Leader in Me Lighthouse School, they felt it made sense to launch their program there. After talking to school staff, the pair decided they would offer LWL to all sixth grade girls. Each girl would fill out a form stating her interests, as would volunteers from HNI and its affiliate companies Allsteel and HON. The girls would then browse their possible lunch partners’s forms and indicate who they would most like to eat with. Then, at their bimonthly meeting, girls would get paired with a volunteer and spend the lunch hour with her at Pizza Ranch. At each meeting, girls will eat with a new partner, exposing them to a wide range of careers.
For Eichelberger, LWL represents an outstanding opportunity to introduce girls to careers they may never have considered before. She detailed, “my hope is that young girls in our community will see that there are successful women in many different roles across the community, and that no matter what they’re interested in, they can be a leader.”
The girls found the opportunity exciting as well. Anisten Martin shared, “It’s cool to meet leaders and talk to them over lunch.”