What’s the Biggest Global Diversity Challenge? Female Talent Development

August 1, 2012 3:16 pm

Rohini Anand, SodexoHow do you find and nurture female talent in countries where women are discouraged from leaving the home? Diversity leaders from seven global companies recently explored the need to increase operational roles, understand local laws and cultural barriers, and adopt flexible work practices, especially in Middle Eastern and Asian countries.

Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Rohini Anand of Sodexo (No. 1 in the DiversityInc Top 50) led the discussion at a recent DiversityInc event and explored the challenges companies face in improving female representation at the executive levels. The audience of corporate and diversity leaders was able to ask questions, contribute their best practices for talent development and share firsthand their real-life success stories.

Companies participating included: PricewaterhouseCoopers (No. 2), Procter & Gamble (No. 7), BASF (No. 31) and Wyndham Worldwide (No. 46). 

We share their best talent-development strategies and case-study examples that can help improve your pipeline of female talent globally. 

Talent-Development Advice on Women From Dr. Anand:

  • The way to the top is through operational roles, but many women move into staff positions around ages 30–45 or opt out of the workforce entirely. Solution: Sodexo launched a forum two years ago with the 22 senior-most women globally who are responsible for driving the business to address this. “It was a real challenge to get these women. They joined because the invitation came from our global CEO, Michel Landel. We couldn’t make progress without having the CEO involved.”
  • Always be true to core values on equality for women, but respect local laws. Solution: In Afghanistan, where Sodexo has two women heading the local business, the company ensures that they have safe ways to travel and accommodations everywhere they go.
  • Understand local cultural barriers to women advancing. Solution: In India, women are expected to work and also be good mothers and daughters-in-law.  At Sodexo in India, the company gives awards and recognition to women making significant contributions, and it includes their mothers-in-law. “They were then respected a lot more by their mothers-in-law and were not expected to come home and do all of the household chores. It helped them be more effective at work.” 

Women Talent-Development Best Practices From the Audience

Diversity Recruitment: Identifying Talent:

  • Ashley Berg Jensen, Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion, The Coca-Cola Company, No. 46 in the 2012 DiversityInc Top 50. Finding more women for the talent pipeline is a challenge in the consumer-packaged-goods industry, especially entry-level jobs such as laborers and driving trucks. Coca-Cola created a women’s leadership council, and they are gaining ownership and accountability. Group presidents are owning the results specifically for their geography. Personnel evaluations also consider mobility with talent development in mind. “Twice a year, we do full development profiles that leverage people and give them global opportunities. They fill out what they want to do. Our leaders fill out what opportunities they share for our people. It goes really far down, all the way to supervisors in the field.”
  • Linda Clement-Holmes, Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Vice President, Global Business Services, Procter & Gamble, No. 5 in the 2012 DiversityInc Top 50. Globally, the front line can be the most difficult place to recruit women. For example, P&G just hired its first woman in Saudi Arabia in sales. “A lot is driven by the local organization—the country leader, the plant manager. It’s a real commitment to help women. When they go home, there are expectations about what they’ll do, such as go to their in-laws houses to cook and clean, so we need to support them.”

Creating Inclusive Workplaces:

  • Joanne McDonough, Director, Office of Diversity, PricewaterhouseCoopers, No. 1 in the 2012 DiversityInc Top 50. Flexibility on defining mobility is key to successful talent development for women. Assignments can be longer term or temporary, even six months. “The mindset in our culture has been a huge commitment both ways. We want to make sure the experience is valuable and use technology and global teams.”
  • Patricia Rossman, Chief Diversity Officer, HR Communications North America, BASF, one of DiversityInc’s 25 Noteworthy Companies. Her company is assessing increasing flexibility to get people who have left to opt back in, especially women. “We will find even greater loyalty if we are able to have them come back. Networking, alumni connections, flexible work practices—people can say ‘I can reinvent myself and stay here.’”
  • Kelley Williams, Manager, Global Diversity & Inclusion, American Express, No. 14 in the 2012 DiversityInc Top 50. The company’s senior leaders have been trained in gender intelligence and how men and women think differently. “Our vice chairman has been such a big sponsor of this. He’s figured out how it cascades down in the organization.”
  • Evelin Potts, Chief Diversity Officer, one of DiversityInc’s 25 Noteworthy Companies. The company has identified global ambassadors in several countries who focus on the diversity curriculum with an aim at identifying and eradicating bias, especially for women. “Each business unit is required to do their own diversity strategy, including this, and define it in terms of their location, all around the world.”
Read 6 Best Practices on Global Talent Development for more on developing talent globally.

–Barbara Frankel