Gina Benninger, Director of Sales and Global Sourcing, Arizona Custom Blends

Trailblazing Leadership Series with Rena Cohen-First

In my role as a blogger for WIN, I am absolutely delighted to spotlight the remarkable women who are making an impact on gender equality. Few forces are as effective in propelling career growth as mentorship, and few figures in the industry are as influential as Gina Benninger. Gina, Director of Sales and Global Sourcing at Arizona Custom Blends, is a committee member in WIN’s newly introduced Mentorship Program and I’ve been a super-fan of Gina for years.

Having worked my way up through the sales ranks alongside other female career warriors, Gina and I crossed paths several times. We connected over our shared journey in sales, and I personally witnessed her experiences helping other women realize their potential. She had mentored many people and felt that her own experiences help shape her career. 

Mentoring is one of the most transformational catalysts of career advancement according to data from the Pew Research Center which showed that a substantial 63% of women have not had a formal mentor. Research by Sun Microsystems shows that 25% of mentees witnessed a notable increase in their salaries, which is a stark contrast to the 5% who saw such gains among those not engaged in mentoring. Furthermore, their research indicates that employees participating in mentoring initiatives are granted promotions at a rate five times higher than their non-mentored counterparts.

What did mentoring do for you?  

GB: “Mentoring “literally” changed my life.  The people who saw something in me and who encouraged me to take a chance on myself and the industry are my heroes, and one person’s encouragement has sparked a 20 plus year career that I am very proud of.  Few people get to be part of an industry they love, working with people they love, doing something that makes them happy and my goal is to pay it forward. “

What are you hoping it does for other women?  

GB: “I want to give women the confidence to believe that they can do and be anything they want.  I know this is so cliché but it couldn’t be more truthful, if you lift women (or any human) up and make them feel important and powerful, and they go out into the world with that confidence and support & THEY will make a difference.  I don’t want any women out there not striving for their happiness because of fear.  YOU are good enough, I hope WIN can help be a safe place where all women no matter where they come from or what they do now are comfortable enough to chase their dreams.”

What is the importance of having a mentor?  

GB: “Having a mentor can provide numerous benefits.  Some of the most beneficial are helping to set goals, providing support, helping to expand your network, and offering encouragement.

What does a mentee get out of it? 

GB: A mentee if committed to the program can truly transform their career and reach personal and professional aspirations.  Mentors can act as professional coaches helping to create a plan to excel to the next level in a persons career and keep you accountable to do the work and take the chances necessary to WIN. 

Where did your passion come from? 

GB This industry has sparked my passion.  I have a community of people who inspire me to keep learning. I am passionate about making this world a healthier and happier place and we can do this with the science and innovation to develop amazing products.  It’s pretty cool to see finished products out in the marketplace that are changing people’s lives that this industry helped create.  

Mentoring is one of the most effective paths to career advancement, and WIN’s program is undoubtedly among the most effective avenues to fulfill their objective of gender parity. I’m eagerly anticipating the profound influence of Gina’s dedication on the program and the transformative effect it will have on the industry as a whole.

WIN is launching a pilot mentorship program, designed to support senior-level women interested in advancing their career to C-suite and board positions. Our expectation is to launch a full mentorship program to all senior-level WIN female members in early 2024, as well as a program to serve mid-level managers.

Learn more about the Mentorship Program here.

Sign up to be a Mentor or Mentee here.

Rena Cohen-First

VP Sales, Cepham Inc. Tel: 760-798-6735


Pew Research Center 

Sun Microsystems

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