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Carrie Jones-Barber: “Passion gives you the positive perspective”

In our new series of interviews, we look into the value of women’s representation in the business world, at a top management level. Carrie Jones-Barber, Dawn Foods CEO, has graciously agreed to be the first to share her experience and beliefs driving one of the biggest companies in the business.

What are your thoughts on the glass ceiling in the workforce, particularly in the baking industry? And what should feminism stand for, in this perspective?

Carrie Jones-Barber: While considerable progress has been made since I started my career in the food industry, there is still more work to be done. For businesses, it is critical that opportunities are available for women to succeed.

We must not let assumptions about women– or anyone for that matter – dictate how our teams and business evolve. More women, more people of color and more employees with diverse backgrounds lead to different perspectives that fuel innovation and inspirational solutions for
companies and customers.

What personal experiences do you share with other women in the industry?

Jones-Barber: The primary observation is simple – we need to have more women in our industry. We must look for opportunities to engage with women earlier in education systems and share what a great career path the baking industry can provide. The opportunities in the baking industry are endless: from business ownership to manufacturing, logistics, marketing, eCommerce, distribution and food science. We must do a better job of getting the word out and engaging with talented women.

Why did you choose the baking industry? What did it mean growing with the 100-year-old family business that determined you to join it and now lead it?

Jones-Barber: I was extremely fortunate as I knew around 12-years-old that I wanted to do what my dad did. With Dawn being a family business, I had the opportunity to watch my dad, my uncles and my grandfather at the office and in the factory. We would attend conferences together, and on family trips, we always visited local bakeries. All these experiences piqued my interest in the baking industry. Equally important, I saw how much they loved what they did – taking great care of team members, partnering with customers, and of course, eating our
delicious bakery products!

For women, progress has been made, but companies need to think about how they can support women through Employee Assistance Programs and wellbeing benefits.

Carrie Jones-Barber, Dawn Foods CEO


What values define Dawn Foods and what are the values guiding your leadership?

Jones-Barber: At Dawn, our values have never changed; we live them every day. Everyone at Dawn must believe in not only what we do, but how we do it. It sets us apart and is one of our competitive advantages. Our values are Relationships, Optimism, Integrity, Passion and Progress. These values are supported by what we call our Circle of Excellence, which embodies our commitments to our wonderful people, our fantastic products, and taking great care of our customers.

The Dawn Difference, as we call it, is palpable, and we talk about our culture anytime we have gatherings of our team members to reinforce our values, our Circle of Excellence and our mission and vision. I cannot do it alone, a group of leaders cannot do it alone, everyone in the organization must believe and live and embrace this way of working every day. My dad taught me early on about the value of relationships in this business, with our team members, customers, partners and suppliers.

I choose to be optimistic about life and business. Integrity is one of Dawn’s most important values to me – I must trust the people I work with and each of our individual skills to make great decisions for our team members, our customers and for Dawn.

How is the role of women working in the bakery field evolving?

Jones-Barber: I am excited to see that women are filling more roles within the industry, but there is room for even more growth. At Dawn, we have some incredible women leaders, and I am committed to providing even more opportunities for women to grow at Dawn. We are currently working on a Women’s Leadership Development Program to provide women at Dawn with resources and clear paths to grow into larger leadership roles. We currently have women leading our marketing efforts as vice president and senior vice president in our Europe & AMEAP and North America regions; our national accounts team and supply chain team in North America are both led by women senior vice presidents; and we have additional women in vice president roles in finance, and people (human resources).

I look forward to adding even more women and diverse team members at every level at Dawn and I encourage other leaders to do the same. Embracing different perspectives and cultures makes us stronger, both as an internal team and as a partner to our customers.

How do you see women’s presence in the industry now, particularly in top management? What career support is available for women compared to 10 years ago, and what additional steps do you think need to be claimed?

Jones-Barber: Significant progress has been made in recent years; however, I would love to see more women in leadership roles. For instance, a 2020 McKinsey study found that about 21% of C-suite roles were held by women and less than 30% of vice president, senior vice president and C-suite roles were held by women. Across industries, these numbers must change. In the baking industry specifically, leadership needs to be more representative of the baking profession. In the United States, 62% of bakers are female. I want to see leadership better reflect these numbers globally. I am thankful there is a lot more career support available for women now than there was 10 years ago. Networking and mentorship are critical for any person looking to grow in their
career. Now, people no longer have to go through a formal program to gain knowledge or to learn – there are so many online courses, seminars and conferences available to support your future career. Companies should provide these opportunities and support their teams through continuous learning to help them gain experience and confidence to elevate to the next level.

What will the industry narrative focus on over the next years?

Jones-Barber: As a woman and CEO, I am hopeful for what the future holds for diversity, equity and inclusion. I am glad more people are paying attention to DE&I (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, ed.) and putting it at the forefront of their internal and external decision-making. We need to keep pushing to make things better for everyone in an authentic and transparent way that welcomes all people to the table – and welcomes them to pull up a chair if one isn’t there.

And what are some of the plans you can share from Dawn Foods’ agenda?

Jones-Barber: With over 100 years in the baking industry, Dawn Foods remains committed to our vision, which is to inspire bakery success every day. Our goal is to be the global leader in bakery, ingredients and services, and we are well-positioned for continued growth in each of our regions. We are proud that our recent acquisitions in Poland and Portugal help us get closer to this goal and allow us to continue to deliver value to our customers.

Read the full interview in Baking+Biscuit International, Issue 4 (2021).