Elinor Steele-Zegelbone, TUPPERWARE, VICE PRESIDENT, GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS & WOMEN’S INITIATIVES
It was nearly 25 years ago that Elinor Steele-Zegelbone first went to work for Tupperware. She landed the job through a temp agency as a secretary in the purchasing department. “After only a week, I realized it was an open position,” she recalled. “By then I had absolutely fallen in love with the people, the corporate culture and what they were doing for women, both within the company and through their sales force. I just wanted to get my foot in the door and start here.”
Her abilities soon began to shine and when the newly appointed President of Tupperware Worldwide, Rick Goings came on board, she was encouraged to apply for the job as his executive assistant. “It was the best career move I ever made. He has not only been an amazing mentor to me, he has been my sponsor throughout my whole career here.”
She believes mentors can be anyone whom someone looks to for personal or career development; it may be direct or indirect through classes, books or webinars. A “sponsor” on the other hand is someone who takes a personal interest as a life and professional coach to guide development.
“Rick saw in me things I didn’t immediately see in myself, and has continually given me opportunities to really stretch,” she said. “He was the one who came to me and said there is more I could do in the company and encouraged me to get my MBA, which I did at Rollins College Crummer Graduate School of Business.” That was no easy task; she was a single parent with three sons, the youngest of which was 13 at the time.
She moved into the strategy group and then Goings, who by then had become the chairman and CEO, asked her to be the chief of staff for the Office of the Chairman. Before long, Tupperware’s outside PR agency requested that she be the company’s internal liaison, and in 2005 she became thedirector of public relations. Then in 2008 she was promoted to vice president global communications and women’s initiatives.
Perhaps one of her most rewarding experiences was being a part of the joint delegation between Business Executives for National Security and the U.S. Department of Defense Task for Business and Stability Operations that visited Iraq to learn about how to build sustainable business opportunities for women in that country. This worked hand in glove with Tupperware’s Chain of Confidence program, which she championed, designed to connect women with other women to support each other, build confidence and help develop business skills.
The results of that trip are ongoing. Tupperware committed to sponsoring a female professor from the University of Babylon to come to America to study entrepreneurialism at Crummer and do an externship with the company, in order to return and integrate entrepreneurial principles there. Returning to Iraq, they have trained over 70 women to act as mentors and have established a career center at the university. It is just one of many examples of how she is touching women and their families around the world.