MADISON, Wisc. — Wisconsin now has its own chapter of Professional Women in Pest Management (PWIPM), an affiliate group of the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) whose mission is to attract, develop and support women in the pest management industry through educational programs, resources and peer networking.
Breanna Neerland, A.C.E., operations manager at Kwik Kill Pest Control in Madison, Wisc., was inspired to organize the chapter after attending virtual PWIPM events during the COVID-19 pandemic. She contacted NPMA to get a chapter started in her home state and kicked things off with a booth at the Wisconsin Pest Control Association's Midwest PestCon in February that sparked interest for new members.
Neerland grew up in the pest control industry. Her father, Bob, is the founder of Kwik Kill. Neerland joined the family business seven years ago after a five-year career in pharmaceuticals and has since worked her way from technician to her current position as operations manager. She said she believes it’s important for women in the pest management industry to have a safe space where they can share their experiences, learn and grow.
“I believe women-focused organizations are extremely important in male-dominated industries, because it allows us to be surrounded by peers that understand the struggles that we go through,” Neerland said. “No matter your role within the industry, as a woman, it is likely that you have had to overcome resistance in at least one way. Women-focused organizations give us an opportunity to share our struggles, overcome them and grow within our roles. There is strength in numbers, and we become stronger knowing we are not alone.”
Since the chapter’s booth appearance in February, it has grown to about 30 members, Neerland said. She and Sara Knilans, Midwest regional manager at Bell Laboratories, Madison, Wisc., are co-chairing the chapter and planning to organize a leadership committee as it grows. Neerland said she wants the direction of the chapter to be determined by its members, whether they’re interested in networking opportunities or crave more educational sessions.
The chapter’s first official event was a kick-off party at Bell Laboratories. About 20 industry professionals attended for networking, a silent auction and a chance to put names to faces after interacting in the chapter’s Facebook group, Neerland said.
She said she appreciates the pest control industry’s opportunities for continued growth and learning, along with its supportive nature.
“This industry is truly unique, because we all encourage each other’s success,” she said.