Words From the Women of CFP

Words From the Women of CFP

  • February 16, 2024
  • by Columbia Forest Products

According to the National Association of Manufacturers, women make up 29% of the manufacturing workforce. When a workforce has been so heavily male for years, it can be daunting for new women to join. Luckily, many organizations are working to address this with programs like 35 x 30, which aims to add half a million women to the workforce by 2030. Mentorship, support systems, and sharing women’s stories are all part of the way we can bring women into the industry.

This Women’s Month, Columbia Forest Products wants to put the spotlight on a few of the many women who are thriving here. Columbia also wants to direct its female employee owners to a few resources they can take advantage of at the end of this article.

Tammy Mitchell has been working at the mill in Chatham, VA for the past 31 years. She has worked as a grader, on a customer accounts focused team, and now as Inside Sales Lead.
“I wouldn’t have been here this long if this wasn’t my place. This is where I’m meant to be.”
Part of the reason Tammy has stayed with Columbia so long is that it feels like a family.
Tammy says she loves what she does and the people she works with, so it makes coming to work easy.

Charity Willis-Webb has been working at the Old Fort, NC mill for 30 years. In fact, Columbia is the only company she has worked for, and she takes pride in this fact.
“I’ve always felt like Columbia cared about us and there are great opportunities to grow.”
She’s held many positions during her career, with many of them being out on the floor of the mill. She enjoys interacting with people from all sides of the business and is thankful for the perspective working inside the mill gave her.
“I love the people I work with. My job has always been fun, and I’ve always worked with so many good people.”
For Charity, her Columbia story has always been something of a family affair. Her parents, siblings, husband, and even her children have worked at Columbia at one point or another.
“Even on the bad days, it feels like home.”
“Everyone here is like family and some days we fight like brothers and sisters. When we walk out those doors at the end of the day, we’re still family though.”

Kathy Gray has worked in the Greensboro, NC office for 17 years as the Corporate Benefits & Risk Manager.
“Over the years, the management and people have changed, but the values have stayed the same.”
Within the past few years, Kathy recalls obtaining her CEBS designation. This is a rigorous designation with much coursework and exams. She’s thankful for her Columbia family’s support as she was working to obtain it.
“I really enjoy working with people who love their job and always do what they can to support each other.”

Michele Ford will have been with Columbia for 20 years in June. When she first started as an executive assistant, she only expected to stay a short time. She was pleasantly surprised to find a career here. 

“I quickly developed a sense of ownership in the company and realized I’d found a home where my gifts were seen and encouraged.” 

Michele is now the Executive Director of the CFP Foundation. Michele was on the ground floor of developing this innovative, charitable program. She developed its policies through careful research and implemented caring teams at each mill. 

“There was and is a true commitment from the top down to support this effort. We don’t just say we are family – we truly support each other like family.” 

Michele only regrets not joining the company sooner. She wants to encourage women at Columbia to point out each other’s successes and develop support systems with each other. 

“It can be less intuitive for women to network. It’s important to build supportive relationships with other women in the company. When you do this, it helps us all by bringing attention to untapped talent.

“The future of Columbia looks bright. You’re given the space to make mistakes and room to succeed here. This is a group that really cares and gives you the opportunity to make a difference.” 

Cheyanne Coombs has been working at Columbia’s Craigsville mill for seven years. She started out working utility and gradually trained in many other roles due to the demands of night shift. For the past two years, Cheyanne has been a composer team lead.
“Initially, I didn’t plan to stay at Columbia very long. My aunt worked here so I knew the pay and benefits would be good, but I only planned to stay until my house was built.”
Now, Cheyanne says there’s very little that could pull her away from such a supportive company. She noted that her managers and coworkers have always been encouraging and willing to work right beside her to tackle any issues.
“I ended up staying so much longer than I expected because of the good people that work here, the flexible schedules, and the opportunities to move up quickly.”

Women’s Forum & Book Club

Valerie Atkins has been coaching, speaking and hosting leadership development groups at her company, Wells Street Consulting, since 1991. She focuses on helping companies provide effective resources to their aspiring leaders.

Most recently, she has been assisting Columbia by hosting monthly Women’s Forums. All attendees are welcomed to come discuss the unique challenges women face when entering or maintaining leadership positions. Several women have also been attending the Women’s Book Club, where they explore books related to effective communication and self-reflection. Their most recent book was: Crucial Conversations.

If you haven’t had a chance to join the Women’s Forum, please email Valerie at valerie.atkin@cfpwood.com to be added.