During Women’s History Month, Inspire celebrates the stories of our corporate and franchise team members, as well as franchisees as we reflect on the significant roles that women have played in shaping American history.
Today, we spoke with Donna Manwaring, who is a Director of Operations and has worked on the Arby’s brand for 11 years. She is also a member of Inspire’s Champions of Women Leaders Business Resource Group, which is dedicated to helping members strengthen their leadership skills, utilize networking opportunities and provide resources that support the needs of women in the workplace.
Why is being a member of the Champions of Women Leaders BRG important to you?
Early in my career, I chose not to insert myself or raise my hand for opportunities because I felt inadequate due to a lack of self confidence in my skill set and I did not feel I was completely ready for the opportunity at hand. I realized I had this view because, as the only woman in many situations I thought differently than those I worked with.
I want to be a leader who recognizes talented women’s capabilities. I want to instill confidence in these women, helping them understand that it is not just ok to think differently, it’s encouraged. We don’t need to feel completely ready to take a chance. Being an “only” many times in my career enables me to relate to that lonely feeling those in the same position today may feel.
Diversity does not exist without inclusion. When employees feel included, they feel a sense of belonging that drives increased positive performance results and creates collaborative teams that are innovative and engaging. Leaders with diverse backgrounds will bring various solutions to the table, leading to a more informed decision-making process and improved results.
What are your goals as a member of this BRG?
I want to build mindfulness towards change by creating awareness and encourage my colleagues to review and analyze their own unconscious biases. With equal opportunities, I want to help women be the obvious choice, not because of their gender, but because of the skills they display.
What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
Women’s History Month is an opportunity to celebrate and reflect on women’s achievements and the obstacles they have overcome in the struggle to be free, relevant and level the playing field. It is a time to not just look backwards at the amazing women who forged the path for us today, but a time to encourage today’s women to continue to forge the path for the next generation.
How are you celebrating women’s achievements?
I am celebrating by posting every day on the Champions of Women’s LinkedIn page an important woman role model for everyone to celebrate. I do so to showcase the extraordinary hurdles these women overcame to advance women’s rights in hopes of encouraging women today to overcome their own hurdles.
Is there a particular woman in history that has influenced you in either your personal life or career?
While attending school, I was assigned to write a paper on our former president Franklin Roosevelt. As I began assembling my information, my attention was drawn to his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the immense influence she had on her husband’s decisions as president, shaping his cabinet and the New Deal. Eleanor led the charge promoting women’s political engagement, playing a leadership role in several organizations, including the League of Women Voters and the Women’s Trade Union League. Eleanor created what was known as “she-she-she camps,” or women’s organizations of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Eleanor also held press conferences in which only female journalists could attend—a way she could subtly encourage women to maintain prominent careers. I was so influenced by her I chose “Eleanor” as my confirmation name within my church.
A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change. How can you help forge a gender equal world?
I believe that a critical piece of a gender-equal world is an environment where women share opportunities and pull one another up as they rise through the ranks instead of knocking each other down. Women tend to view other women as their competition in the workplace. This is a counterproductive behavior that women need to be aware of and diligently work to avoid.
In addition to fostering an environment of positive encouragement and adding value to one another, I believe it’s critical to connect women to opportunities they’re well suited for and encourage them to pursue those opportunities. Building communities where women encourage and support one another is a critical foundational piece towards the success of tomorrow’s women.