Michele Buck is the first female CEO of the Hershey Company.
“I would say certainly growing up there that I never envisioned that I would be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company,” Buck said. “I grew up from very humble means. My mom grew up on a farm with no indoor plumbing, and my father was the first in his family to graduate from high school.”
“In the manufacturing facilities, in particular, women have contacted me, sent me all kinds of letters, and what they say is they can now see themselves in the leadership of this company,” she said.
Buck, 57, says more women will become CEOs when they stop being too hard on themselves for not being perfect.
“I think women need to start by having confidence in themselves. I don’t think women always believe that they can achieve the ultimate in greatness, and I think it starts with knowing yourself, knowing what you’re good at, and then allowing yourself to go for that opportunity,” she said.
Earlier in her career, Buck was asked to run a struggling plant for another company. She wasn’t sure she could do it. She did it anyway and excelled. Earlier jobs in the Midstate shaped her, too.
“I worked as far back as I can remember. First, it was a paper route. I babysat. I waitressed. I sold Avon door-to-door. I worked in retail,” she said.
After Carlisle High School, Buck went to HACC, graduated from Shippensburg University, and worked for the state at the Department of Revenue.
She couldn’t have imagined the day she would be offered this job.
“I got to say that felt pretty good,” she said.
Being a rare female CEO has its unique experiences.
“I frequently go to conferences or other types of meetings where I am one of the few,” she said. “I never feel like I’m treated differently by virtue of being a woman. I think people accept me as a CEO of the Hershey Company, and yet you notice it when you walk in the room and it feels a little bit different.”
When asked if her kids are impressed with her, Buck says they probably are.
“Although I don’t know if they’re that much more impressed than any other kids are with their parents,” she said.