Places & Faces
SWLA Women Who Mean Business
7/3/2018 10:11:18 PM
Women in Business

Since the early days of the Suffragettes and the passing of Women’s Right to Vote in 1920, women have slowly been striving towards equality, especially in the workforce. While the proverbial glass ceiling is hardly shattered, there are certainly several cracks in it. As a testament to that triumph, in this month’s cover story, we feature eight local women working in high-level management positions traditionally held by men in the past. As most working women know, there are challenges to overcome while simultaneously juggling several roles. They are often torn between the responsibilities of family life and their career. Read about these high-achieving women, how they find balance in their lives, and their best advice for young women who want to succeed in the business world.

Janie Frugé
CEO | West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital

With her career firmly in the nursing field, Janie Fruge’ says being CEO of a hospital was not on her radar; but like many leaders, she carefully considered the opportunity and embraced the challenge.
A graduate of McNeese State University in nursing, Fruge’ also holds a master of science in business administration and nursing from the University of Phoenix. She progressed at West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital (WCCH), from runner to unit secretary and nurse aide during her college years, to becoming a registered nurse. She traveled across the Southeast lecturing and educating other nurses on emergency cardiac treatments. Fruge’ left WCCH for five years to assume a position as Emergency Room director at CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital. She returned to WCCH as patient care supervisor, then chief nursing officer. Fruge’ was named CEO in 2013.  

"My comfort zone was in the clinical world, giving and directing patient care. The thought of changing to CEO was new and intriguing,” she explains, "so I gave it careful consideration. I had prepared through education and years of experience. I’m grateful for the support and mentorship I received from colleagues, physicians, and co-workers.”

Fruge’ says seeing people working together to take care of the needs of others brings satisfaction. "Every member of our hospital team contributes to a portion of care. It can be challenging to navigate the rapidly changing healthcare environment to keep that promise of our vision and mission in our community, but we stay focused and never stop thinking about where we are going and how we will get there,” she says. "I feel we all do a better job when we encourage creativity; this helps us generate new ideas to meet challenges. It is critical to delegate and allow people to do their jobs; you must trust your team.”

On finding balance
"I am fortunate to have a very supportive husband. It’s difficult to balance our careers and personal lives but we make time for date nights every week. I feel it’s important to set aside time for self-care; we give to others and we need to make sure we’re refreshed and rejuvenated ourselves.”

Best advice
"Be your best self and don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t believe everything people say in regards to a glass ceiling; don’t operate under other peoples’ assumptions. Don’t underestimate yourself or be overconfident. Prepare yourself and don’t set limits; keep your options open. When preparation meets opportunity, then success happens.”

Avon Knowlton
Director of Economic Development, DeRidder/Beauregard Parish Police Jury

As a native and life-long resident of Beauregard Parish, Avon Knowlton is fully invested in the in the economic development of SWLA. Her professional work is focused on ushering prosperity and opportunity into the region. She currently serves as the Director of Economic Development for the City of DeRidder and the Beauregard Parish Police Jury. Through a cooperative endeavor agreement, the city, chamber, and parish pooled their resources into a creative relationship with Knowlton. Her optimism and hopeful outlook produce positive changes which result in successful outcomes within Beauregard Parish. Her duties include recruiting new businesses and industry to Beauregard Parish, retaining existing businesses, workforce development, and quality of life projects and programs. She was instrumental in working to develop and market the first Louisiana Economic Development Certified site in Beauregard Parish. 

Formerly the Executive Vice President of the SWLA Economic Development Alliance, Chamber SWLA, and Foundation Operations, she helped broaden the Chamber SWLA’s regional efforts and drove member and investor participation in the Chamber SWLA and Alliance programs, projects, and Economic Development Foundation. In 2008, she was named Louisiana Chamber of Commerce Director of the Year.

Knowlton, along with others, was instrumental in the formation of Fort Polk Progress, dedicated to the growth of Fort Polk and a better quality of life for our military and their families. She consults and mentors community leaders and many Chambers across Louisiana and the United States, working as a facilitator for boards, policy procedures, economic and community development, leadership programs, strategic planning, workforce development and project management. She is dedicated to working for a better quality of life for our military and their families, advocating in Washington and raising awareness for Fort Polk Progress.

Knowlton received her Certified Chamber Executive Certification (CCE) from the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives in 2012, making her one of only two certified Chamber of Commerce executives in Louisiana. She recently received her Economic Development certification from Southeastern Louisiana University.

Avon has been married to Edward Knowlton for 28 years and is the mother of Garrett and Dylan and grandmother of Bowen and Boone.

On finding balance
"For me, it’s all about family time and doing things with them.  It is important for me to set a flexible schedule to have down time to avoid burnout."

Best advice
"Never let someone tell you that you cannot do something or you are not good enough. Prove them wrong. Believe and invest in yourself.”

Clair Hebert Marceaux, PCED
Director of Cameron Parish Port, Harbor & Terminal District

A proud Cameron Parish native, Clair serves as Director of Cameron Parish Port, Harbor & Terminal District, which is the parish’s public port authority. Her role allows her to interact with people from all over the world to promote Cameron Parish. Her work days are filled with developing relationships with land owners, project managers, site selectors, and local, state, regional, federal and international partners. Her previous work experience includes Director of Economic Development for the Cameron Parish Police Jury, Southwest Region Economic Development Project Manager for Entergy Louisiana, Calcasieu Parish Police Jury as Senior Grants Administrator, and Regional Lead with the Federal Emergency Management Agency overseeing more than 11,000 temporary housing units for FEMA. 

Clair began her career as an English teacher in Lafayette. She is a graduate of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where she graduated Magna Cum Laude and was a member of Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honor Society. She is currently enrolled in the Lamar University Port Management Master’s program. Clair is a nationally Certified Community and Economic Developer and serves or has served on the boards of Fusion Five, the Arts and Humanities Council of Southwest Louisiana, the SWLA Literacy Council, the Women’s Business Network, the Acadiana Economic Development Council, the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance, IMCAL, the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, the Cameron Lions Club, Cameron Preservation Alliance, and United Way SWLA. She is active in several professional organizations such as the Louisiana Industrial Development Executives Association, the Southern Economic Development Council, the Louisiana Energy Export Association, and the Louisiana Tourism and Promotion Association. 

Clair is an avid runner, participating annually in the LA Fur & Wildlife Festival 5K, Gibbstown Bridge 5K, and the Beach Run 10K to benefit the preservation of the Sabine Pass Lighthouse in Cameron Parish. She and her family make their home in Cameron.

On finding balance
"If you have vacation, take it. If your family needs you, be there. No excuses. I have found that as long as I didn’t abuse my work relationships, my supervisors almost always supported me. If they didn’t, I created a better opportunity for myself.”

Best advice
"Make the most of your situation, whether it’s a natural disaster, a chance meeting with someone you admire, participating in a leadership program, or jumping at opportunities to travel. If you want to succeed in anything, just grow yourself!”

Dana Williams
CEO | Jennings American Legion Hospital

As Chief Executive Officer of Jennings American Legion Hospital (JALH), Dana Williams is responsible for the overall direction and management of the facility and is accountable for implementation of strategic and operational goals. She began her 34-year career at JALH in 1984 as Assistant Director of Medical Records. Over the years, she worked up the managerial ranks, serving as Director of Medical Records, Director of Administrative Services, Chief Operating Officer, and now CEO. "I have been fortunate enough to work at JALH my entire career,” says Williams.  "My background was in Health Information, and I rose in responsibility and authority over the years due to opportunities afforded to me by the prior CEO, Terry Terrebonne, and my board. When Mr. Terrebonne retired in 2009, I was offered the role of CEO and it’s been my privilege to serve in that capacity since.”  
Williams earned a BS degree in Medical Record Science from University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 1984. She earned a Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration from the University of Minnesota in 2007.  

In her free time, Williams likes to travel and read. "I have always been an avid reader, and I really enjoy weekend down time at our camp in Lake Arthur with a good book and a glass of wine.” 

On finding balance 
"Finding the right work/life balance is a challenge for all of us, regardless of gender.  Over the lifespan of a career, those competing priorities change. Earlier, it was at times a struggle to ensure that I was as attentive and engaged with the activities of my children as I wanted to be.  Later, there were concerns regarding care of aging parents and in-laws. However, I found that living in a smaller community has made it easier to participate and develop a good support network. I am fortunate to have an employer and work culture that fosters balance, and I have a good partnership with my husband. But, I have to remain attentive to keep it all in check.”

Best advice
"I encourage women to pursue whatever career path they desire without hesitation; there should be no limits. I work alongside many competent, professional and strong women in the healthcare and business community and see more and more of them assuming leadership roles than ever before. I believe women contribute unique and valuable perspectives in problem solving and strategic decision-making and should be confident in their career pursuits.”

Elaine Acord
Unit Manager – EO/EG Sasol, North American Operations

Elaine Acord leads one of the new production units under construction at Sasol’s world-scale petrochemical complex near Westlake. A chemical engineer by training, she says family brought her home to a job she loves. 

Raised in Lake Charles, industry and technical expertise is in her DNA. Her father and brother work in the chemical industry and she attributes her traditional upbringing to her somewhat untraditional career choice. While pursuing a chemical engineering degree at Purdue University, an extended internship at an international specialty chemicals company in Chicago solidified her chosen vocation. After graduation she moved to Houston and spent seven years in operations and production with LyondellBasell before returning to Lake Charles where her arrival aligned perfectly with Sasol’s announcement of their Louisiana growth plans. She got in on the ground floor of construction and has spent the past five years working on Sasol’s new ethylene oxide and ethylene glycol production unit. Today, she leads that unit and works daily with her team to bring the state-of-the-art facility to fruition.

On finding balance 
"As the wife of a college sports coach, mother to two young daughters, and an active community volunteer, I’ve learned that balance is key. I do my best to find the right balance and give myself a break. Break time means time with my inquisitive girls and my husband doing fun activities together. One of our current favorite activities is visiting Sasol’s Chem Corner exhibit at the Lake Charles Children’s Museum. The interactive STEM activities are so much fun and they help the girls understand what mommy does at work and how Sasol’s work contributes to our community. "

Best advice
"Find yourself a great support system, then lift up and help one another. There aren’t many women who do what I do and I’m incredibly grateful to have found my niche in a career and in an industry that’s so supportive of my success and advancement. I want to take every opportunity to pay it forward. Lake Charles is full of talented girls and women and I’m honored to meet and work with many of them through Junior League and Sasol for Good activities. I try to encourage girls, especially my own, to dream big, work hard to overcome challenges, and see by example that its possible to do anything they set their minds to.”

Lyndee Brassieur
Manager of Continuous Improvement, Westlake Chemical Corporation 

For nearly 20 years, Lake Charles native Lyndee Brassieur has excelled in a variety of production and manufacturing roles at Westlake Chemical’s south plant facility (formerly PPG Industries) and in management at multiple facilities throughout the organization. As Region One’s manager of continuous improvement, Lyndee leads with an innovative style, forging a distinguished path of excellence while simultaneously motivating those around her.

Lyndee began her career as a student through McNeese State University’s engineering co-op program. After earning her Bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, she started working full-time at the south plant site, a facility that produces commodity chemicals for customers throughout the world.

"As a result of working in a diverse facility, I was exposed to many aspects of manufacturing including production, shipping, and business,” she said. "Seeing operations from different angles helped me to grow and shaped my career path significantly.”

Throughout her career, Lyndee has shown dedication and a passion for industry. Early on, she developed a fondness for teamwork, which led her into management and leadership.

"I have always enjoyed working on teams to achieve a shared goal,” she said. "When I can help others succeed while influencing the bottom line -- I love that.” 

Lyndee is manager of continuous improvement at four Westlake Chemical Lake Charles sites and a facility in Longview, Texas. Her job involves managing structured problem-solving initiatives through LEAN 6Sigma  -- a process designed to drive results. As a LEAN 6Sigma Black Belt, Lyndee has spearheaded the implementation process of LEAN 6Sigma methodologies at the plant sites.

Lyndee is active in the community, serving alongside Westlake Chemical’s volunteer groups and the company’s Partners-in-Education program.

On finding balance 
Married for 21 years, Lyndee and her husband have three daughters, Dhara, 14, Aila, 11, and Lola, 5. As a mother, Lyndee is a strong advocate for individual empowerment, believing each person should have freedom to choose their own life path. Her approach to balancing career with motherhood is connected to her worldview: "Know yourself, identify your goals, and stay focused.”

"Ask yourself: How do I want my career to grow and what do I want for my family. Define what you want and go for it.”

Best advice
"Embrace opportunities and don’t hold back. When you’ve earned a seat at the table, take it. Work hard, push yourself, and advocate for what you want in your career.”

Marion "Butch” Fox
Director | Jeff Davis Parish Economic Development & Tourist Commission

Marion "Butch” Fox has been involved in the state’s tourism and economic development industry for more than 30 years, serving stints in Lake Charles and New Orleans, the Louisiana Office of Tourism, and the Louisiana Office of Economic Development.

Fox has directed the Jeff Davis Parish Economic Development & Tourist Commission since 2007. In April 2015, she added Chamber duties to her list. She divides her time overseeing economic development, tourism, film commission, and the Chamber of Commerce for the parish and manages the Oil & Gas Park and the Gator Chateau through a contract with the City.

Fox says her most important job is to create a business-friendly atmosphere and to "sell” her parish to potential businesses and visitors. Because Jeff Davis Parish is rural and agriculture-based, she looks for ways to add value to the products grown or produced in the area, such as the locally-grown sugar cane by the Bayou Rum distillery in Lacassine. As past-president of both the Louisiana Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus and the Louisiana Travel Association, Fox strongly believes in creating partnerships. "By working together, especially promoting the rural parishes, you get so much more accomplished,” she says.

The recipient of the 2015 Will Mangham Lifetime Achievement award from the Louisiana Travel Association, she has served the association in numerous roles over the years and has long been a champion of the association’s advocacy efforts.

An avid hunter and fly fisher, Fox spends her free time outdoors. She also enjoys speaking to groups about her career and what she’s learned in life. 

On finding balance 
"Women have an easier time in the workplace now, but we are still defined by the choices we make every day. Putting your family first is a choice, then balancing your work life becomes easier.  Women can have it all, a family, a career, friends, and as your family grows different choices can be made based on that life stage. Growing, adapting and being flexible are traits which working women with families should strive for.”

Best advice
"Young women starting out today have a world of opportunities, so find a job that you are passionate about. Also, do something every day that scares you; you will learn and grow daily by doing little things that get you out of your comfort zone.”

Jennifer Farque
Operations Manager | Phillips 66

Jennifer Farque started her career within industry 20 years ago after graduating from the University of Michigan, relocating to New Orleans, and accepting an off-shore mechanical engineering position. In 2000, Farque moved to Lake Charles where she took a position with Phillips 66 Lake Charles Manufacturing Complex. Now Farque is the Area B operations manager where she oversees nearly 100 employees who are responsible for the safe operation and maintenance of the area, as well as the engineers performing the day to day monitoring, troubleshooting, and optimization of process units.

Her years as a manager have taught Farque that adapting your managing style to the individual motivates and generates the best results. "I press for results,” says Farque. "I think every manager has to. But over the years, I’ve reflected on good and bad traits within supervisors and peers and tried to mold and adapt my leadership style in a way that produces quality results and builds a solid relationship with my staff.”

When not at work, Farque keeps busy with her husband and children. To de-stress, she takes time during her lunch break to get in a quick run. She is currently training for a triathlon. "For years I worked through lunch, but now I take that time to recharge. Sometimes that might be the only time I have for myself, so I force myself to take it.” 

On finding balance 
"Like many working women, I admit I still search for balance between work and family life. I accept that some days the scales will be uneven. I couldn’t do it without my support system. I lean on my husband, Lane, a lot. He helps with all sorts of things for our family. Hopefully folks can find a partner, somebody to help them out. You can’t do it all yourself. Consider hiring someone to help you if needed.”

Best advice
"Connect with a strong mentor and learn from them. Don’t be afraid to talk to leadership within the company. Looking back, I wish I had done more of this when I was younger. As a leader, I wish more people would take it upon themselves to do that now. Don’t be afraid to tell folks what you want for your career. Ask for their advice. You’re more apt to get something if you ask for it.”
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