Why are diversity and inclusion important to you?
I want everyone to have the opportunity to achieve their potential. When you experience first-hand the difference it can make when people are truly accepted for who they are, and they know that their experiences and opinions are valued, you can’t help but get involved. I had a watershed moment a number of years ago working with the YWCA to support young women from low socio-economic backgrounds. I realised the power of advocacy and giving voice to the voiceless.
What are businesses set to gain or lose based on their approach to diversity and inclusion?
First and foremost, embracing diversity and inclusion is the right thing to do. You see how important it is to employees because organisations leading in this area are attracting the best talent and reporting significant improvements in engagement. It’s also about driving innovation, improving strategic decision making and becoming better at meeting customer needs. Diverse businesses outperform non-diverse businesses by 35 percent according to McKinsey. There’s plenty more research out there to show that when organisations take a diverse and inclusive approach, everyone reaps the rewards – employees, customers, the community and shareholders.
What attracted you to work at Fonterra?
Fonterra has strong roots as a co-operative owned by 10,000 farming families and also has strong values – ‘Co-operative Spirit’, ‘Do What’s Right’, ‘Challenge Boundaries’, and ‘Make it Happen’. I feel very connected to what we stand for. We’re also a global organisation with 22,000 employees across the world and customers in 100+ countries. We’ve already made good progress in the area of diversity and inclusion, but I see a real opportunity to step this up even further.
What will you focus on?
Initially, we’ll look to set targets, which will be based on an internal diversity survey we completed as part of the Champions for Change initiative. From there, we’ll work to design our programmes and initiatives to achieve the greatest impact.
Currently, we face challenges such as the gender ratio of our employees, which is around 70% men and 30% women, with manufacturing being a historically male-dominated area. But we can look to success stories in many parts of the organisation – for instance, our manufacturing team in Saudi Arabia have gone from no women in 2015 to women now making up eight percent of the workplace after we worked with local government to develop our site facilities to meet cultural requirements.
Diversity is of course more than just gender. Fonterra’s Disrupt programme, which brings together diverse teams of employees to create their own start-ups, has emphasised the importance of diversity to drive innovation. It helped the Co-op win the Deloitte Top 200 Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Award in 2017. Our annual Diversity and Inclusion Week, anchored around International Women’s Day in March, is another example of an initiative we use to raise awareness. Programmes like these show we have a good platform to build from.
What are you hoping to achieve?
I want all of our people to know they can bring their authentic selves to work and to not be afraid to challenge the norms and biases that we see every day. With strong leadership and the right policies and practices in place, we can bring a diversity and inclusion lens to all areas of our work. It needs to be embedded rather than being a separate programme on the side. I’d like to see Fonterra be a role model and leader in diversity and inclusion, and for us to provide more support to other organisations. Businesses can have an incredibly influential role in helping to drive society forward to embrace diversity and inclusion.