• 20 May 2013 22:51 | Armelle Loghmanian

     “Intellectual generosity and leadership are always rewarded and do help women move up faster” 

    Interview by Alessandra Zocca


    Rosa Scappatura

    Managing Director, Global Client Management at BNY Mellon SA NV

    What is inclusion in your opinion, Rosa?

    For me, inclusion above all means listening. It is about creating a work environment where openness is encouraged and everybody is free to contribute with his/her own personal ideas, without worrying whether they are at odds with the views of the majority.

    Women excel in bringing forth new ideas, but unfortunately often they do not have the courage to speak up.

    Which are the major lessons you have personally learned through the BNY Mellon Diversity & Inclusion approach?

    I started to engage more closely with the gender equality topic in 2007, when I was asked to relaunch the Women Initiatives Network programme in Brussels.

    This experience was revealing and I started thinking about what women needed locally. The average age of our employees was around 34-35 years at that time, and the majority of women were in the middle of major life choices: they had started a family, they were often mothers of young kids. On the other hand, they still wanted to grasp the professional opportunities presented by the expansion of our company at that time.

    Work-life balance was a key theme, but also career development, supported by soft-skills training. We worked closely with our Talent Management team at that time to establish training programmes and we asked our senior leaders to come to talk to us about their personal and professional challenges and successes.

    What I have learnt over the years is that an inclusive work environment is the most important element to achieve balance and drive innovation. The best ideas often come from young employees and from teams comprising people with completely different backgrounds. I am keen to encourage more collaboration between these groups, because with that exchange comes the cross-fertilization of ideas.

    Based on your experience what are the main areas of their professional life women need to improve to succeed?

    It can be argued that women tend to be less assertive and less self-confident than men. They are sometimes shy and might not dare to speak up. For example, when considering applying for a more senior role, they may be inclined to hesitate more than men, particularly if they feel their profile does not fully match the skills and expertise required.

    Of course there are also visionary women who have created women’s networks and who can offer support to other women in business. Personally, my experience has been a very positive one at BNY Mellon.

    And which are the major qualities that women should expand?

    I think the quality women should champion is solidarity. It is very inspiring when women act as role models to other women. Women can be mentors and bring people together: two key leadership skills.
    I really believe that intellectual generosity and leadership are always rewarded and do help women move up faster.

    Rosa, let’s go back to “Diversity & Inclusion (D&I)” at BNY Mellon: what inspired your company to develop initiatives in this area?

    Diversity and Inclusion is, for BNY Mellon, a top business priority: we conduct business in over100 markets around the world, with offices in 36 countries on five continents, serving a broad and diverse client base and operating across many cultures.
    Our employee population is equally diverse. To succeed and help employees succeed, we have worked hard to foster a culture that encourages and supports diversity in all its dimensions: gender, race, sexual orientation, disability and draws on people from many nationalities and backgrounds.
    There is a deep awareness and a keen recognition from the very top of the firm right on down of the huge value generated through a diverse talent pool – and also that bringing diverse groups together enhances our chances of delivering more comprehensive solutions. Building a strong culture of inclusion is just doing what is right. It creates a stronger, more cohesive, more innovative and ultimately more successful company.
    By opening the doors to opportunity for all employees, everyone benefits: employees, clients, shareholders, vendors and suppliers.

    How does BNY Mellon support “Diversity & Inclusion”?
    Do you have a specific D&I function/department at BNY Mellon? How does the Board keep up-to-date with D&I developments?

    Pre our merger in 2007, both The Bank of New York and Mellon Financial had historically established programmes to support gender equality, diversity and inclusion. Post-merger all these programs were brought together under the same global and regional governance structures and a new push was given to create and support further initiatives.

    BNY Mellon’s commitment to diversity and inclusion can be seen through its policies, programs and throughout the business, as well as our organisational structure. We have established:
    • A Global Diversity and Inclusion Council, chaired by our Chairman and CEO Gerald Hassell.
    • Regional Diversity and Inclusion Councils, in EMEA and Asia Pacific. The diversity councils meet regularly, while four employee resource groups and one business resource group focus on women, LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) employees, multicultural employees and employees with disabilities and returning military veterans
    • An Office of Diversity and Inclusion with a new Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion who joined the company in August 2012 to accelerate the execution of the company’s D&I Strategy
    • Four company sponsored Employee Resource Groups (1):
      • Women’s Initiatives Network (WIN) – WIN’s mission is to act as a global resource for the professional development and advancement of women who work at BNY Mellon. Karen Peetz, BNY Mellon’s President, was the founder of WIN. Today, Curtis Arledge, CEO Investment Management serves as its Executive Sponsor.
    Since 2009, WIN has shown tremendous growth, expanding from 13 chapters to 56, with a membership of several thousand BNY Mellon employees, plus many other women and men who support its activities. Chapters offer training and skills development programs for employees, and a formal one-year mentoring program
    “The Women’s Initiatives Network (WIN) is a good example of how employees work with the company to promote diversity. The group builds professional networks through mentoring, skills training, leadership development programs and education. WIN’s beginnings were modest, starting with a dozen senior women execs who became active members of the Women’s Bond Club of New York, the oldest women’s affinity group on Wall Street. The twelve original members met monthly and went on to develop WIN as a forum to bring financially-oriented women together (2).”
    • IMPACT’s mission is to act as a resource for BNY Mellon employees, with an emphasis on recruitment, retention, development and advancement of multicultural employees.
    • PRISM strives to promote an open and supportive environment at BNY Mellon in which all LGBT employees are fully included in all aspects of corporate life by fostering outreach. Prism contributes to the company’s growth and its role as a leading corporate citizen.
    • HEART’s mission is to promote an inclusive working environment where all employees are valued based on their talents and abilities. HEART is open to all employees and especially welcomes those BNY Mellon employees whose friends and/or family members may have a disability.
    • In 2011 the company established a Business Resource Group for Returning Military, in support of BNY Mellon’s program to hire and support service members who are transitioning to civilian life after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Could you please provide us with some concrete examples of ongoing or past D&I initiatives? Were they successful?

    At BNY Mellon, the week of November 19, 2012 was dedicated to celebrate diversity and inclusion across all our EMEA offices.

    All locations, from London to Brussels, Milan, Dublin, Leeds, Wroclaw and many others enthusiastically celebrated “Diversity & Inclusion” organizing a full week of initiatives. Brussels took part in it, with thousands of employees engaged in the events taking place every day throughout the week.

    I would like to mention one initiative in particular that was a great success. Launched by a young woman, it was a program aimed at helping employees better understand different cultural connotations. At lunch time volunteers give language lessons to their colleagues and share details of their own country’s cultural riches. This is a typical bottom-up initiative that helps foster cohesion and understanding amongst employees.

    Personally I had a chance to learn a lot from one initiative in this diversity week. We hosted a transgender colleague from the UK who told us about her journey to becoming a woman. She shared her story with about 40 colleagues in the audience, from her childhood through to her decision to change sex and the long process that followed, with all the legal and bureaucratic challenges and medical procedures involved She wanted to help us to understand how to behave facing cases like hers. Everybody appreciated that and felt grateful for the insights she was able to offer.

    I was very touched by the story of our colleague, of the impact of changing gender on her work and clients, her long decision process. Our bank helped her to introduce herself in her new identity, because the value and the credibility of this person, and her positive impact on our business, are ultimately what count. This appreciation of employee diversity from our bank implies also the appreciation of the clients’ and suppliers’ diversity, which in turn results in a further positive impact on our business and customers’ satisfaction.

    How have you measured the effectiveness and benefits of the D&I initiatives?

    The success of D&I initiatives can be measured tangibly by the impressive lists of Diversity and Gender Equality awards that our company wins every year around the globe. In 2012, for example, BNY Mellon won ten external awards. Then there is the talent acquisition and retention element that can be measured, and the increasing number of women and candidates internationally who are attracted to our company and want to work for it.

    Among the most recent awards and achievements, I will just mention the Times Top 50 Employers for Women in the UK 2012 and 2013, and Opportunity Now which in April 2013 presented BNY Mellon with an Excellence in Practice Award to Sheena Wilson, head of Global Talent Strategy, for her work in directing diverse talent. Additionally we received a top rating of 100 percent as a Best Place to Work in the 2013 Corporate Equality Index (CEI).

    How have these D&I initiatives changed your company culture?

    Some of these initiatives have existed for decades at BNY Mellon, so I can’t really say that change has happened overnight. However we do see women and diverse talent increasingly advancing through the ranks, and international employees are represented at every level of the organization. The trend is certainly upwards.

    But clearly what is also changing is our clients’ awareness that we are a leader in this area. I had the great pleasure to host a table of female clients last year in Luxembourg on International Women’s Day, when our Luxembourg branch was awarded the Top Company for Gender Equality Award in the region. The women who joined us for at the Gala Award Dinner were wholly impressed by our leadership in the gender equality discussion. Some of them work for companies where the discussion around gender equality has never even started!

    We also see an increasing number of tender offers and request for proposals by customers which include questions on diversity and inclusion policies.

    How did male employees welcome gender balance actions? And how did women welcome them?

    Our Women Initiatives Network (WIN) groups are composed of a good number of men who attend meetings and provide support, and today WIN is led by a male Executive Committee member.

    WIN is striving to provide junior women, and also men, with the tools they need in terms of training, mentoring, coaching, encouraging them to take the lead and succeed.

    Is BNY Mellon in touch with any other firms with a view to sharing best practice in the D&I field?

    Yes. BNY Mellon constantly shares its best practices in diversity and inclusion programs with other companies. In Luxembourg we recently participated in best practices forum on gender equality where we were asked to share our experience as a leader in gender equality. Would you believe that our Luxembourg branch has 60% of women in its executive committee ranks…?

    Short Biography

    Rosa is a Managing Director at BNY Mellon in Brussels. She joined The Bank of New York in 1996 and covered a number of client facing roles before moving as a Client Relationship Manager to the representative offices of Paris and Milan between 2000 and 2003. Upon her return to Brussels, Rosa took on responsibilities for Relationship Management and Business Development in Luxembourg. Currently Rosa is Client Executive for key strategic multi-product relationships of BNY Mellon in Luxembourg, Belgium and France.
    Rosa is the Co-Chair of the Bowstring Regional Chapters in EMEA (which include 16 locations) is a member of the EMEA Diversity WIN Steering Committee.
    Rosa holds a University degree In Foreign Languages and Literatures from the University of Pisa and an MBA from Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management.
    She is married and the mother of two children.

    Contact Details

    Rosa Scappatura
    Global Client Management
    Managing Director

    BNY Mellon SA NV, Brussels
    Tel. +32 2 545 4871
    Cell. +32 473 334413

    (1) What is BNY Mellon’s approach to diversity?

    (2) Sheena Wilson, Global Head of Talent Strategy

    Disclaimer -     
    Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of BNY Mellon, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.
  • 10 Jan 2013 16:45 | Armelle Loghmanian

     The challenge is resolving the gendered dynamics of power 

    Interview by Alessandra Zocca


    Barbara De Micheli

    Coordinator of the “Master in Gender Equality and Diversity Management” at FGB learning of Fondazione Brodolini; Senior project manager and trainer

    Barbara, what is talent in your opinion?

    It is difficult to define; I think talent has a lot to do with “difference”. We are used to defining talent as any natural ability or skill that makes an individual special and gives him or her an original point of view and the power of action in their environment. So, to have talent means, also, to be different from the rest of the group. I also believe that almost everyone has a talent, we just need to find the way to express it.

    How important is gender in talent management?

    In my opinion gender is crucial in talent management, since gender is a key component of the way we are, we behave, act and re-act in social contexts, including working environments. Talents are gendered and need to been discovered and supported – managed – considering their gender dimension.
    There’s the need for a different approach, looking for talent in all its possible expressions and overcoming the assumption that talents are gender neutral, actually having in mind, when we say “neutral”, the stereotype of a white heterosexual man, young and healthy.

    In your profession you deal with designing a Masters degree in gender equality & diversity management; how would you define gender equality? And diversity management?

    Gender Equality is a wide concept which has to do with human rights (formal equality) and equal opportunities (equality in practice); as such it concerns all human beings and not only women. It also refers to the system of laws, policies, tools and activities aiming to avoid any gender based discrimination and to support equal distribution of opportunities and power among genders.

    Diversity management is a quite new management approach which recognizes that individuals express differences (not only in terms of gender but also in terms of cultural background, ethnic background, physical abilities, age) and these differences actually are resources for the organizations (companies or other kind of organization).
    Diversity management provides answers to the need to support these diversities, within the organization, to make them feel they are in an inclusive environment and they can express their talent. In a globalised, networked and diverse economy: diversity is a point of strength for the organizations.

    Going back to the “Gender Equality and Diversity Management Master”, which are its key objectives?

     The objective of our “Gender Equality and Diversity Management Master” is to train professionals to define and implement concrete diversity management projects in organizations. We help participants to develop a sensitive perception of diversity and to get familiar with the legislative, social, economic and organizational context. 

    We also offer them training to develop project planning and project management skills, considering the capacity to conceive and to implement projects as a crucial operational skill.

    What should companies learn about gender equality and diversity? And why?

    Companies should learn that discrimination is not only unfair, but also expensive. They should also learn that, in order to maintain their competitiveness in a constantly changing economic world, they need the energy and the commitment of all their best talents; companies need to try to avoid the risk (because people usually rely on stereotypes and suffer from discrimination biases) of not making the best choice.

    What are nowadays the main obstacles to reaching gender equality and to breaking the glass ceiling?

    In my perspective the main obstacles are linked with gender stereotypes, which affect individuals and organizations, and power dynamics.
    Greater efforts should be made in investigating how organizations function, how power dynamics take place within the organization and when/where gender based stereotypes block transparent and fair functioning. Of course, since the focus is on power, it is crucial to “lobby and network” in order to “convince” dominant groups to share power.

    In this sense women should be able to express a multilevel strategy, changing organizations from the inside, when they reach levels of power, but also promoting the debate around the issue. It looks like things are moving in these directions.

    Do you think that family-life work balance is still one of the main barriers to reaching the board for women? Is the family-life work balance becoming more of an issue for younger men?

    I think family-life work balance is one of the barriers, but not the most important one to reaching the board. I believe sometimes life work balance is presented as the most important reason in order not to investigate the gendered dynamics of power which lies behind the processes, the machinery and the mechanisms to reach the boards.

    In Italy, but also all over Europe, boards are frequented almost exclusively by “over 55” white men (please see the BCE case:
    Non transparent rules and pathways to accede boards (cooptation for instance) still favor the maintenance of this prevalence. The result is that many groups, starting from young people, women and men, are left out of the rooms where decisions upon their heads are taken. I think it is a matter of power. Women are still brought to believe that power is negative, but power can be very good, if you know how to use it.

    With reference to your second question, yes I think that younger men are understanding and living their role in parenting in a completely different way from their fathers. They want to be more present for their kids and to have more of a balance between work and life-family.

    In my family we are trying to be two “prevalent” parents. In jargon the prevalent parent is the one who spends more time with his/her child and who represents the principal point of reference for his/her child. The concept of “prevalent” parent implies that the major reference of children is not necessarily their mother (only because of her maternal instinct), but it can be their father as well.
    It is not always easy but kids grow up with less stereotyped roles models, I hope. They see that men and women can do the same kind of things, so they may choose what they want depending on their talents and not following others’ expectations.

    What is your personal opinion about the idea of imposing quotas to ensure more women onto boards?

    If you were to ask me this question 15 years ago, I would have said I was against. I would have told you that imposing quotas is a way of discriminating and that women do not need to be protected or considered as special target groups since they do have talent, at least as much as men. But then I grew up, I saw: 
    •  Women with talent lose their competition against men with less talent 
    •  Women with talent reaching quite easily middle management positions but never or very rarely appointed to high level positions 
    •  Women with talent with no desire of becoming mothers being sidelined because they employers thought they may decide one day to have children. 

    So I changed my mind. Today I believe a positive action such as the introduction of quotas is necessary since there is discrimination and, as Vivian Reading says “spontaneously it isn’t gonna happen”.

    What could help women in their struggle to reach the board, Barbara?

    I think that the media could play a key role by spreading stories of female role models, who made it to the top and to high positions. I mean, not only the “stars”, but above all female role models that are realistically achievable by other women. 
    The media could also ensure that the gender balance topic is in the news in order to keep the public attention on it and they could diffuse the information of how things are progressing, or raise cases of inequality.

    Short Biography

    Barbara De Micheli is a senior learning facilitator with over 15 years of experience and competences on change management in SMEs, team leading and team building, transnational networking and communication, enterprise start up and mentoring. Since 1997 she has designed and managed EU funded projects focusing on gender equality, labour market dynamics, active aging and lifelong learning innovative approaches.

    Employed with Fondazione Giacomo Brodolini since 2010, she managed her own consulting company from 2001 to 2010 working with several public and private clients.
    She has two kids aged 6 and 4.

    The Fondazione Giacomo Brodolini was established in April 1971 to carry on the social and cultural work started up by the ex-minister of Labour Giacomo Brodolini, who was responsible for the Italian Workers‘ Statute. In over 40 years of activity it has focused on the following issues: research in the fields of economy, sociology and labour law; lifelong learning policies; equal opportunities; local development; industrial relations; history; urban policies. It has a European widespread network of partners all over Europe, two seats in Italy (Rome and Milano), one in Belgium (Brussels) and one in Romania (Bucharest). Since 2010, it is the editor of, web magazine dedicated to understanding economy and policies under a gender perspective. Since March 2012 it promotes the master in Gender Equality and Diversity Management

    Contact Details

    Barbara De Micheli
    Project Manager
    Fondazione Giacomo Brodolini 

     Via Barberini 50
     00187 - Roma
    Tel. +39 06 89827466
    Fax.+39 06 44249565 
     Bld. du Roi Albert II - 5
    1210 Bruxelles
    Tel. +32 (0)22233055
    Fax. +32 (0)22233055

    Disclaimer -     
    Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Fondazione Brodolini, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.  

  • 06 Oct 2012 23:24 | Armelle Loghmanian

     How can you foster an innovative mindset among your staff?

    By Servane Mouazan

    Servane Mouazan, CEO Ogunte and Coach for High Impact Social Entrepreneurs

    Successful social innovators   

    Everyday I come across outstanding individuals with sheer passion to change their community and who contribute in skills, connections, strategic and technical knowledge, to making a positive social or environmental impact. Some of these individuals do this through enterprise, others through campaigning.

    In over 10 years of running Ogunte, a Social Innovation Development Company focused on women led social ventures, I have observed that these social innovators possess a set of behaviours that help them deliver that change. These behaviours are absolutely transferable to mainstream organisations.

    In our effort to build efficient and agile teams, able to respond to unexpected economic fluctuations, it’s worth laying robust foundations and reinforcing the capacity of individuals and organisations. Change takes time, trust - and a terrific amount of energy- to be adopted!
    This is why looking at the behaviours successful social innovators showcase when they embrace change, is important. It helps provide adequate support to teams in mainstream businesses.

    As the Centre for Social Innovation puts it: "A true social innovation is systems-changing – it permanently alters the perceptions, behaviours and structures that previously gave rise to these challenges".

    From our work, we know that an individual must master a package of competence, connectedness, confidence and chemistry to make progress.

    So for you to help your team gain a more innovative mindset, you might want to involve coaching support to help people understand their role and potential impact from a different perspective, starting with how they are going to judge the progress of their personal development.

    Coaching looks at their values and how they influence the change they want to make in their life and in other people's lives. And that is already a first step towards measuring their potential impact.

    Set of behaviours to deliver innovation

    1. Understanding the drivers

    Social innovators need to reconcile sometime contradicting roles and priorities. They are both sellers/traders and campaigners or activists. They need to keep their vision and mission alive, make a real impact on people and/or the planet, and they have to tackle project management issues, raise funds and keep supporters on board, all at the same time.

    You can help your staff understand their drivers and think from their own values. For instance, if a team member has a strong sense of social justice, encourage the activist in them to overcome the issue your team faces in a particular context.

    2. Harnessing the power of networks

    Exploring networks in which the innovators are involved, whether they are actors, leaders, or just observers, gives light on their strategic mindset. Can you expand, refocus and shrink the number of your networks? Are we talking about quantity or quality? Do you help your team curate their networks to enhance them? Do you encourage your team to share and use their external networks at work?

    Most successful social innovators see networking not only about giving and receiving but equally about passing on and working towards a common vision. So as a coach I will not only support the individual, but together we will both explore the social issue the innovator is embracing, in a specific networking environment. It's about seeing a social issue as a malleable virtual person that has a history, many perspectives, and a bunch of gremlins, but that is also open to change. Equally, you can encourage your staff to manage a project as if it was a living architecture with its own mind.

    3. Collaboration and open source thinking

    You'd like to think that social innovators are involved in finding solutions to pressing issues by working together but many obstacles to that are: competition, branding issues, unhealthy management practices, scarce funding, intellectual property, to name just a few. Unfortunately, a lot of people are still reluctant to collaborate through fear of losing their USP (unique selling proposition) or access to finance.

    Even if social innovators have multiple drivers and responsibilities, they are always hungry for systems that make them think differently. To boost this, active brainstorming with peers and outsiders gives great solutions. It's about creating platforms where entrepreneurs connect, co-mentor each other and get access to new challengers, in order to grow learning and trust. Research into open source software communities, by Karim R Lakhani, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, has shown that "broadcasting" or introducing problems to outsiders produces effective solutions.

    So as a team leader, try to break the silos around you and become more open source. A successful collaboration will be the reward of this mindset.

    4. Growing stimulation and leadership

    Social Innovators get excited when they are close to other great social leaders and innovators and stimulating ideas. So coaching focuses on their ability to excite others and connect with a group of champions that needs a leader and a stimulator. A coach can encourage the maverick – or outsider – in them, to find their own voice, and come up with an idea they will formulate with their own words.

    5. Advocating a strength-based approach

    I often find successful social innovators seem to find answers in what works, in previous and new solutions, rather than in problems! Focusing solely on problems, on the “yes, but” - doesn't lift your thinking. We know very well what’s going wrong… but do we pay enough attention to what excites us, what works?

    Remind your team of the vision. Design your mission statement together, with words you all own, so that it resonates with everybody.
    I see most success with social innovators I coach with a strength-based and a solution-focused approach. They get the satisfaction of being intellectually challenged, and the excitement of moving forward, in a positive way.

    Being part of the solution also boosts their sense of belonging, and rewards their desire to be useful and wanted.
    So support your team into getting a positive reputation based on positive evidence and good practice, and make them aware of all these processes so that they can repeat them.

    Short Biography

    Servane Mouazan is the founder of Oguntê, a social ventures intermediary focused on Women Social Innovators.
    With a background in marketing, creative industries and executive coaching, Servane has closely helped over 2500 women social entrepreneurs in Europe and South America, with their leadership and communication skills, their mindset for enterprise, and their capacity to innovate.
    A true advocate for Women and Social Business, she has set up the first Women's Social Leadership Awards (since 2007), contributing to highlight the achievements of women community activists as well as senior social leaders. She has also created an Activist Angels Council and Make a Wave, the first pre-incubator for Women Social Entrepreneurs.

    twitter: @ogunte

    Disclaimer -   
    Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of OGUNTE, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.
  • 29 Jun 2012 15:16 | Deleted user

    " On the route to inclusion … "
    An interview by Alessandra Zocca


    Maija Van Langendonck, Director 
    Cargill Global Diversity & Inclusion

    PWI –   
    Maija, could you please introduce Cargill? What does Global Diversity & Inclusion mean at Cargill? 

    Cargill is quite a unique company: a large international organization, employing 139,000 people in 65 countries. Cargill has a highly diversified business - international producer and marketer of food, agricultural, financial and industrial products and services. Cargill was founded in 1865 in Minneapolis (Minnesota) where the headquarters are located and is a privately held company - family owned - with a unique and informal culture. 
    Cargill was established in Belgium via a grain importing office in Antwerp in 1953. We now have over 1,000 employees in nine locations: Antwerp (two locations), Izegem, Gent, Herent, Vilvoorde, Mechelen, Mouscron and Villers-le-Bouillet. The company has a number of different and diverse operations in the country, including the production of food ingredients and the processing, distribution and trading of a variety of agricultural products. Cargill’s European Headquarters for its food businesses and Cargill's R&D Centre Europe, Cargill’s primary technical centre serving Europe, the Middle East and Africa are also located in Belgium (Mechelen).

    I believe we define Diversity in a way that’s not that different from many other organizations. We believe that it is all the ways in which people are different, whether culture, experience, religion, gender, generations, tenure etc . And we encourage people to consider this as very broad. However, at Cargill we put a lot more emphasis on inclusion, which is about creating an environment and a culture where differences are capitalized on and all employees feel they can bring their full self to work. In fact, talking about diversity is, in a way, highlighting it – this could potentially lead to segmentation versus harnessing.

    At Cargill we approach Inclusion from a broader perspective: we want to create a culture where there is a genuine interest and respect in the other’s perspective and background. 

    A culture where differences don’t divide, but rather unite  to achieve high performance and a better, more interesting work experience. Therefore, it is important that all of our employees: 
    • Feel valued and respected regardless of gender, race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and politics as well as personal, work or communication style
    • Have an opportunity to share their ideas and perspectives.
    Inclusion is also the natural consequence of our company valuing “integrity”. Ethical behavior is so ingrained in our culture that employees associate Cargill most with integrity. Integrity is one of the characteristics we have identified as key attribute of our employees, which we look for and expect in everyone. 

    PWI – What triggered Cargill to create this function, what business advantages do diversity and inclusion provide Cargill?

    Cargill wants to be an employer of choice, Alessandra. For Cargill, this means attracting, selecting, developing, engaging and retaining diverse talent in order to enable our businesses and functions to achieve their strategic goals. 
    Each employee’s unique talents, perspectives and life experiences are critical to our success, which is why we celebrate individual differences at our company.  

    We see diversity and inclusion as a source of strength, because our differences broaden our experience, further our competitive strengths, advance customer solutions and drive innovation. 

    In addition diversity makes the workplace more dynamic, interesting and rewarding for everyone.
    “Great decisions come from great debates, and great debates are shaped by people that bring a variety of perspectives … Having the diversity that’s necessary for the quality of debate to be at the highest possible level is clearly a business imperative.”     
    Greg Page – Chairman and CEO

    PWI – Where is the D&I organizationally positioned within the company structure? What is your role?

    Like with many companies based out of the US – historically the DI function was created in response to legal requirements and the DI activities were mainly US centric. We have seen various evolutions since that time from it being more compliance driven to being a business imperative and from being initially US centric to being a global focus and opportunity. Critical in this is that we recognize that the needs and opportunities in each business and location can be very different. However, the overall objective of inclusion remains the same; that the “what” will not change but the “how” we approach it may. 

    From a structural perspective, we have also seen changes. Where originally this department reported directly into the CEO, we are now part of the HR Talent COE (Centre of Expertise). This is very much a DI maturity evolution, as the DI journey evolves the need for partnerships may differ.  With an initial emphasis on strong positioning in the organization, our focus is now on integrating DI into the organization’s processes and structures.

    My role is primarily a global role, I operate as a senior DI advisor to the businesses and functions and help them to integrate a Diversity and Inclusion focus and opportunities into their strategy and business plan. Together we will look at where the opportunities lie within their organization, whether it is an awareness project, a new organizational design, talent strategy, focus on on-boarding or leveraging diverse employees for our growth strategies. Additionally, I am accountable for staying informed about the developments and best practices in Europe, the diversity legislation and identifying potential partners for our DI projects.

    PWI –  What are the reactions of female and male employees to the actions put in place? 
    At the beginning employees thought it was a too US or gender focused now that we have spent more time making Diversity and Inclusion more globally relevant, a lot more people recognize the value to them and the organization. We start seeing more employees state that they really appreciate the efforts that Cargill is making in this space. A leader in Cargill just recently shared this with me: “The concept of DI is so integrated with the core values of Cargill and our heart of leadership that our challenge is just to remove the barriers.” He then went on to share how DI showed up in his business and how some parts had always been part of how they operated.

    As mentioned above, the key is to recognize that not all initiatives are relevant to all regions. For example, in some countries child care is not a barrier for women, but it could be elder care, or travelling in countries where women have cultural travel restrictions. 
    Then employees’ attitude became more supportive, they recognize inclusion actions as a high engagement factor, like the “global flexibility policy” which allows them to work from home and/or part-time unless over-ruled by local legislations.

    PWI - What do you think about quotas? How do you think women's equal participation in the boardroom can be achieved?
    The quota topic is a hot discussion in many companies doing work on Diversity & Inclusion, especially around gender. For us at Cargill, gender equality is one of many diversity factors, like African Americans in the US, local talent in emerging markets , disability or age (+50) for instance that will help us be a successful business player. However, at Cargill, we refer to the language of goals and not quotas. It is important to understand that goals (including numerical ones) are voluntary – and as they are not mandated, they are not a quota and do not create quotas for specific groups. Goals reflect a good faith effort being made to reach a target hiring number of qualified women and minorities through a Diversity & Inclusion Program. As such, our goals at Cargill are set to make progress toward eliminating the gap between the availability of women or minorities in the labor market and representation in the workforce, including at the board level. For many, getting the numbers up is one thing, but for us, getting the “right” numbers up ,in the appropriate organisational culture for the right reasons is  much more important . Goals for us are a way to ensure that we reach out to the broadest talent pool and then hire the best candidate. We are very clear about meritocracy and focus on qualified candidates being an integral part of how we “do” Diversity & Inclusion. It’s about being a business enabler and not a numbers’ game. 

    PWI - Maija, would you like to tell us about the evolution you see of the overall diversity (gender, age, culture) management in leading companies?
    I would like to make a remark about an issue that is fundamental in my opinion: the evolution of inclusion depends heavily on the neutrality of HR processes. All the recruitment, evaluation, promotion, development and rewarding processes must be inclusive and not designed around target profiles which do not take into account diversity. Let’s take “merit” for example, if it is measured with characteristics belonging to a certain geographical culture, then people from different cultures could be penalized.

    You know, Alessandra, my ambition is that we do not need to talk about diversity any longer and that diversity and  inclusion becomes a trait of next generation leadership.

     Short Biography
    Maija Van Langendonck is one of the Global Diversity and Inclusion leads for Cargill. a Minneapolis based Global Company. Maija is based out of Belgium but works with Cargill businesses across the globe. In this role she advises and supports the businesses in the development and execution of their Diversity and Inclusion Strategy. Using best practices and thought leadership to translate Diversity and Inclusion objectives into ongoing business and people processes. Through this we work towards creating an inclusive culture and making Cargill an employer of choice.
    Before joining Cargill in January of 2011 – Maija was the HR Director at Nato C3 Agency – one of the largest NATO agencies specializing in providing NATO authorities with Consultation, Command and Control capabilities. Whilst at NC3A Maija initiated and led a major change initiative focusing on changing the organizational structure and culture to support the needs of its stakeholders. This initiative included the introduction of competencies – use of assessment centres, a redesign of the performance management process, implementation of an integrated HR system and the design & delivery of a customized leadership development track.
    In addition to more than 10 years experience in various senior roles within the HR domain, Maija has worked several years in commercial roles providing her with good business acumen as well as consulting skills. Her professional career with various International Organizations, across an array of different industries, has not only provided Maija with valuable industry insights - it has also allowed her to travel extensively. 
    Maija is passionate about leveraging all opportunities that life offers us and use these to create a work environment where all people feel they can contribute and are recognized for their unique talents.

    Maija Van Langendonck
    Director, Cargill Global Diversity & Inclusion 
    Cargill Europe bvba
    Bedrijvenlaan 9
    B-2800 Mechelen
    Phone: +32 (0) 15 458 303

    Want to learn more about Cargill’s corporate responsibility, food security and work ethics? Go to:  

  • 23 Jun 2012 22:24 | Deleted user

    "People are different because of their uniqueness, not because of their gender"
    An interview by Alessandra Zocca


    An interview of Massimo Michaud, Director at Kinetica

    PWI – 
    What are your thoughts on quotas? Are mandatory measures the best means to getting more women into the boardroom and executive positions? Will quotas work? Or is it better that it happens organically, no matter how long it takes? 
    Quotas in my opinion are a “necessary evil”.  It would be much better, if these measures were not needed, but it is so difficult nowadays to find gender equality applied in companies that quotas becomes a second best option. Over time quotas will be effective, when gender is no longer taken into account as a difference.
    I believe that it is merit we must promote and merit is not linked at all to gender, it’s neutral. Actually, when merit will be the promotion factor, we will not have gender discrimination.
    The risk I envisage now is that to comply with the quotas rule women are brought to the board with lawyer or academic profiles, not women with managerial background; this is potentially a way to limit women’s influence on the board.
    The second risk is that companies claim there are not women professionally ready for the C-positions, just because they do not support women along the company pipeline. 

    PWI – Have you noticed distinctive traits in women compared to men? What do you think about women stereotypes? Let’s take some of them …
    Alessandra, here are some examples of what I have noticed along my career; I have always worked in male dominated environments, so I cannot bet that my experiences would have been the same in more gender balanced firms. For sure women have to struggle more to reach the same levels as their male colleagues, the business world is still a male rules world. Let me give some examples, with the caveat that I do not believe that the differences I have noticed could only been explained by gender, personality has a much greater role:
    Reticence of many women to advocate for themselves - Women have a tendency to be more interested in the work they do than in the career they can make. In some ways women are more consistent with their own needs, and consistency is a trait of leadership. Women seem to be more motivated by their job content than the opportunity to climb to the upper level. I have seen men taking whatever job in order to have the opportunity to move up on the company ladder. Women often had refused the job. 

    Lack of self-confidence - A gender disadvantage for women is – generally speaking – poor self-confidence; women are much more cautious in taking a position, they wonder whether they are right or wrong, they consider the point of views of colleagues. Men are or appear more self-confident, more convinced about their opinions and, if they change their mind, they try not to show it: this allows men to have the advantage in their career.

    Lack of support/solidarity of women towards other female colleagues - I have noticed, to a certain extent, lack of solidarity amongst women, lack of support. Actually, in such a situation I would have expected that the few women in managerial positions would have supported the other women strongly, but I have remarked more solidarity towards men than women.

    Women don’t make their expectations explicit – I would say that it is part of the female behaviour that women prefer that their boss and other people try to understand what they want, men make their expectations clear. I think that this attitude is linked to the fact that women have a very strong ability to observe what’s happening in the environment around them and they perceive more, so they assume that men can observe and perceive as well.
    Lack social capital – Women network as actively as men in their company, but for many reasons take less advantage of social opportunities for networking.In some companies it is critical to socialize with your upper management level and in others with the second upper level, so far I have seen very few ladies building their second upper level social capital.
    It is important to highlight that women are bearing the family load and they try to run both work and family in the best way, so they sacrifice the social side.
    Last but not least some social environments are like rugby team clubs, are they easy enough for a woman to cope with it or are women attracted by these environment at all?

    Women’s need for perfectionism penalizes them – Perfectionism is a personality trait and not gender related. I guess this stereotype comes from the fact that successful female executives/managers are basically technically very competent, and experts tend to be perfectionists. 

    Women are not visionary - In my experience I often remarked that women, when they have a vision, they are more cautious than men in externalizing it. I want here to break the prejudice that women do not have enough vision, they are visionary but they tend to speak up less and they have a different way to express themselves and persuade others, a more subtle approach. Additionally, cultural implications have to be taken into account, the behaviour expectations with which women are confronted in some cultures.

    PWI - Does women's leadership differ from men's one in your opinion?
    First of all it’s necessary to clarify and agree on what leadership means. As a CEO in several companies I have been very curious about the definition of leadership and the difference between a leader and a manager, so I read a number of books on this subject with the result of being more confused … Some authors – for instance – claim that “we are all leaders”, which looks to me hypocritical, like trying to motivate people by telling them flatteries. Other gurus describe leaders with such rare qualities that probably one person in millions in the world can have them…

    So I found my own very simple definition of leadership: “A leader is somebody who:
    • Identifies and defines a new direction --> vision
    • Goes towards this new direction --> action
    • Is able to convince/influence people to follow him/her --> followership

    Having said this, I do not think that gender is a differentiating factor in leadership; I’d rather believe that there are different types of leadership as far as we have different personalities. 

    Let me make the example using “intelligence”: now we know that there are many types of intelligence (for ex. logical-mathematical, linguistic, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal and intra-personal, etc.) and not just one type of it. The same can be said for leadership, each person can have his/her own kind of leadership, but he/she needs to be able to bring people with him/her, to make the others follow him/her. The first key characteristic that enables an individual to convince others to follow is being authentic, being yourself and not fake. You can dare to be a fake, maybe, but you have to cleverly ensure nobody will suspect!

    Another prerequisite for leaders is to know themselves deeply and to know their team members well as single individuals. By understanding themselves better leaders become more aware of their potential and more consistent in their own behaviour, and can better understand the other individuals. 
    Managers sometimes tend to manage their subordinates in the same way they manage themselves; they apply the same criteria and they do not understand why co-workers do not accept, do not comply or why they are not happy about this: they are just different people with different aspirations.

    PWI – Massimo, in your opinion is leadership innate or can it be developed?
    I do not know whether leadership can be innate, but I certainly know people who have developed strong leadership over time.

    PWI - 
    In your experience is life/family balance still a barrier for women? 
    What about paternity leave?
    Yes, I believe that for women – at least in Italy – family is still a barrier. I have seen many very promising women that at certain point in their career decided to leave the company or to make a step back, because of family/children, despite the fact they would have loved to develop their career. The lack of social infrastructure is a great enemy for women’s careers. In France, where I lived for many years, I noticed that there was more social support. 
    Anyway, not allowing a woman to stop for a while and restart again means (and it will be an increasing problem) losing an enormous amount of value and talent, a waste of useful skills.
    Paternity leave? I am absolutely in favor, my only true doubt is whether during their paternity leave men do what they would be supposed to do within their family or they go playing golf, for instance …
    In my experience I have noticed very bad reactions from men towards male colleagues that chose the paternity leave and with very silly rationales behind, which they show by laughing behind these men’s backs, making jokes about them, etc..

    PWI - Massimo, I think that women struggle also to re-enter their company after the maternity period, especially if they take a longer break.
    You are touching a very important point: there is a prejudice that if you stop your career for a while, you are not able to start again without losing a lot. This prejudice comes from the past when the technical/functional skills were more important than the behavioural skill: of course employees need to be “technically/ functionally” competent, but these skills are quickly obsolete and it is relatively quick to learn them. 
    On the contrary behaviour and management skills need time to be acquired … actually one of the few advantages of aging is that experience helps you to become better, a better person and manager. Being out of work for a while could be the opportunity also to gain different competencies, to acquire different approaches that will allow you to see things from different points of view, to be more versatile.

    PWI - Have you in your current and previous company undertaken actions to recruit, develop, retain and promote women? Which ones? Which ones have been most successful and why?
    I have always put meritocracy as one of my main principles in the companies I managed as CEO. I therefore promoted and retained the women who deserved it and who were very clever and capable in their job. 
    Specifically I took action to ensure that capable women were in a position to reconcile work and family. It has been difficult, but I managed to let women take sabbatical breaks and have flexible hours when their kids were sick even if they were in key positions, and despite the hostility of other employees – men and women - towards these measures in favor of maternity.
    Why is it possible to have flexible hours? Because people work by objectives, there is no need to stay long hours in the office, or to send emails during the night or in the week-end, just to impress the CEO.

    PWI - Which policies, processes and infrastructures (services for family balance, etc.) would be effective to foster gender equality and support quotas targets?
    I think that governments should put in place a sort of “social architecture”, meaning health and welfare services. A lot of women are trapped into services they need to render to their family like old parents, sick relatives or eventually disabled people in their family.
    Social infrastructure would allow women to be relieved of this responsibility and to concentrate on their work or to make a profession what they currently do as “volunteering”: care and assistance, new professions and new jobs … I am especially thinking of the aging  population in Europe and in the western countries.

    PWI - 
    European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding furthered her initiative to obtain more gender balance in European boardrooms by joining together with Europe’s leading business schools to shatter the glass ceilings impeding senior women executives from acceding to corporate boardroom seats throughout Europe.

    Do you think this initiative will be effective? Successful? What are the potential limitations?
    I think that it is a little bit like quotae, it is not perfect because not all women go to these management schools or they went years ago, but at least it’s a lever, anything which ensures more women reach the boardroom will be an improvement.

     Short Biography
    Massimo Michaud spent 10 years in management consulting working for major banks in several European countries after obtaining an MBA from Insead. 
    He then spent 15 years as managing director of insurance companies in France, Belgium and Italy working for the three largest European groups in insurance. 
    In 2010 he started a new career to support entrepreneurs and foreign investors in Italy, while being himself an active investor and entrepreneur.

    Massimo Michaud 
    Via Montenapoleone 23
    20121 Milano (Italy)

      Disclaimer -
    Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Kinetica, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.

  • 31 Mar 2012 20:42 | Armelle Loghmanian

    An interview by Alessandra Zocca


    An interview of Karen Hodgson, Director CERAN Brussels

    PWI – Karen, what is the state of the art for language schools?
    Ms. Hodgson – The best language schools are slowly coming to the idea of dealing with communication instead of just with learning languages. Communicating is not just coming out with a string of words you put together … it’s all about communication.  Communication does not only mean speaking, you have many aspects in communication; for instance what we used to call “presentation skills” was just based on the language used. Now we mean for instance:
    • How do we give a presentation?
    • How do we make sure we keep our audiences’ attention?
    • How we communicate personally, how do we come over to somebody,
    • What do people think of us when we are speaking, do they understand us, are we clear enough, are we using the right body language (because in every language the body language changes)?
    • Am I not being offensive when using certain words or expressions?
    All this is fundamental because you have to captivate your audience, even if you are giving a presentation on something that is already well known to your own employees, your body language is very important, because you will either hold their attention or not.

    PWI – Karen, how has the business of language schools evolved in the last years? In detail I refer to the impact of the cultural changes in our heterogeneous society, the increased immigration, travelling, tourism and expat relocations ... 

    Ms. Hodgson – We have remarked a difference in the languages that are actually requested and I deliberately didn’t use the word “demand”. Dutch makes it to first place in language requirements.  As far as we are concerned, second place goes jointly to English and French, followed by a third place for Spanish.

    PWI – Have teaching methods evolved to cope with multilingual students?

    Ms. Hodgson – In terms of teaching methods, all the language schools that I know of, have the “oral” approach. Of course I do not mean that nothing written is given out, but in the majority of cases the teacher is a native speaker who will only present the work program in the target language, they will only speak the target language. By using any means of communication you like : body language, the expressions on your face, drawings or even little Lego blocks, as long as you get the students to understand what you are talking about, you do not use any of the students’ native languages. Teaching students in the target language means also treating a multi-lingual class equally.

    It is the opposite of schools where we send our children, there you learn the foreign languages by using another language. For example my niece has been taught Dutch by a French speaking teacher explaining in French, the lessons were given in the student’s native language and words were translated to the target language. She learned a list of foreign words, not to speak Dutch.

    PWI – What are the future trends in the language & communication business?

    IMs. Hodgson – We all know that the best way to learn a language is to go and live there for 6 months to one year.  Of course, not everyone can do that.  Nothing will ever replace a lesson given face to face, but distance coaching is making great progress.  By using the internet, students can also take part in language courses whether they are in the same city as the teacher or on the other side of the planet.  We at CERAN already use this methodology.  Why not imagine a virtual classrooms with students all over the world in all the different time zones, all connected at the same time.  Let’s face it, the pace of the world is moving so fast, that such technology will have to be developed whether we like it or not.  The question then is how to guarantee the sale quality as you get with face to face teaching.

    PWI - Karen, how then will then students interact with their teacher? How will you teach communication without personal interaction?

    Ms. Hodgson – Alessandra, very good question… Learning methods will have to change as well, but anyway you will still lose the personalized touch, it would be very “artificial”, but I still think that’s the way it will end up. Today we use webcams, audio-visual equipment costing tens of thousands of Euros, maybe in ten years we will have something different, but it is so impersonal, whenever you are filmed in front of the camera your reactivity changes, the way you speak changes, whatever you do is less natural. 

    PWI – These impersonal teaching methods might not improve language learning, which, I guess, is often difficult for adults (compared to how quickly children learn languages)?

    Ms. Hodgson – Actually, it’s just as easy for an adult to learn a language as it is for a child, but there is one big difference: as we grow up we forget how to learn, why?
    Let’s take the example of a baby who is starting to speak, what does the baby do? The baby will listen, will look at your lips and then little by little will start to imitate the sounds which will form the words. There are two things which come into action: the eyes and the ears, all around the globe we invariably focus on the face and see eyes and lips at the same time. It is much more difficult, if your head is turned, you would have just to use your ears then.
    Adults, do not learn like this is their native language; instead, they start translating the new language into what’s known, meaning their native language; so they are too busy translating each word or sentence into the language they already know.  They are too busy to listen and the main organ that they need are ears. They are concentrating so much on translating that they are not even looking at the teacher; they lose track of what is going around them, they hear words but not the actual meaning, the intonation in the voice, the different frequency in which the language is spoken (each language has a frequency).
    The brain can only learn what the ear hears, but if your ears do not hear, your brain doesn’t hear. That’s why when we were small all we did was listening.
    Let me make another example: music, I am musician as well, I play clarinet and I used to sing in a choir when I was in England. When you play music, you automatically use your ears; so if I hear a new song on the radio, I say “oh what a nice song” and I immediately forget when the song is finished, but a couple of days later I hear the same song and I realize I heard the song before, and on and on until I start listening to the music and I actually start to sing the music without knowing the words, then later I pick up the words because I am listening.

    PWI - Don’t you think that the “passion for their country and language” of teachers makes the difference? Don’t you think that learning languages is a way to create a sense of community?

    Ms. Hodgson – Yes to both of your questions. If you have a passionate teacher who transmits the love he/she feels for his/her language, customs, the history and all the traditions of his/her country, then the lesson becomes interesting.

    PWI - In a world where English is the most used language to communicate amongst foreigners, what still triggers people to learn other languages?

    Ms. Hodgson – The need to communicate with each other.  Let’s take a look at some examples :  Russian, Chinese, Japanese, German and Dutch are usually learned for professional reasons. In Belgium, everyone knows that you need to speak Dutch and English to be able to get a good job.
    Italian is more associated with holidays; Spanish is in between because it can be associated with business in Latin America, but also because people love to go on holiday in Spain. And in Spain people speak only Spanish, the surprise is also that in Germany you need to speak German, go to Aachen to the beautiful Christmas market and try to speak English to the store holders there…

    PWI - Tell us, Karen, about your new challenge in the business of learning languages ... Why this choice?

    Ms. Hodgson – Languages are my passion, being artistic, I consider a language as being an art.
    I started teaching English and Dutch - because those are my two native languages – seven years ago and I taught languages for four years and then I was requested to run a school in Brabant Wallon. It wasn’t the best decision I had made in my life, but I had the feeling that something else was going to pop up and I stayed put, I just waited.
    One day I received a call from a company of head hunters who asked whether I was interested in the position of director of a training centre in the capital Europe …. And here I am.  So since the 1st of September Ceran has opened up here in Brussels to fulfill the requests of many of its clients for a communication training centre for middle/top managers.
    PWI - In your role as director of the CERAN language schools are you more focused on the administrative side or are you involved in the methods to improve teaching?

    Ms. Hodgson – Ultimately I try to divide my time into three different sectors: there is obviously the administrative part, which results in a third of my time, a third of my time into the construction of new courses and another third will be going out to meet clients, the commercial side where I try to sell my passion for languages. But that is still only theory !  The majority of my time is spent planning and re-planning courses, recruiting the best possible trainers, helping my colleagues to train the teachers …. A CERAN trainer cannot start teaching until he/she has completed their initial training.  We then give them courses, and then we make class visits to see how they are getting on.  The participants also receive evaluation forms so that they can tell us how they feel about their lessons, are they happy with the content, the teacher, is it up to the expectations?
    PWI - Karen, do you think I transmit passion for PWI?

    Ms. Hodgson – Definitely, this is why I came, it is thanks to you, Alessandra. My CEO is a woman and she told me about PWI and said that in my new role it would be interesting for me to go and see. I was completely open, you convinced me, and I became a PWI member.

      Short Biography
    Karen was born in Castleford, West Yorkshire England.  She studied Economics, Law and Languages and then went on the work for the European Commission in Brussels in the then called DG VIII, Development.  After 27 years, Karen left the Commission and after having tried various different temporary jobs and a sabbatical in Norway, she decided to use her skills in language training.  Her organization skills were never very far away, and after 4 years of teaching, she let herself be persuaded to run a language training centre in Wallonia where she stayed for just under 2 years.  She is now running the Brussels Training Centre of CERAN, which officially opened its doors on 14 November 2011.
    Karen Hodgson, Manager CERAN Brussels
    T. +32 (0)2 515 07 94
    M. +32 (0)491 37 43 27
    Rue Ravenstein 4
    1000 Brussels - BELGIUM  

      Disclaimer - Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CERAN, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.
  • 05 Feb 2012 00:27 | Deleted user

    Customer Experience: “Simple & Friendly"
    An interview by Alessandra Zocca


    Pascaline Dubois, VP Customer Experience & Operational Excellence, Consumer Business Unit at Belgacom

    PWI “Customer experience” has become a very commonly used terminology in recent years, but it is not that easy to find a clear, commonly-held definition. Pascaline, how would you define “Customer experience” at Belgacom?

    Ms. Dubois – I would say that customer experience is not really a definition, but it’s a way of living. Three years ago we decided at Belgacom to put the customer at the centre of our strategy by launching a long term transformation program which covers several company processes (from billing, IVR, etc.), but also focuses on culture change and on building engagement in all the employees.
    In 2011 we ran a large project called “Live my life”, which provided 1.000 Belgacom employees (including our top management) with the opportunity to spend a day with a technician, an operator, a salesperson or in a shop in order to experience the job of the front-end colleagues and above all the needs of the customer. I am proud to state that “Live my life” had an extraordinarily positive feedback from the people involved.

    PWI – How do you measure customer satisfaction at Belgacom?

    Ms. Dubois – We have surveys at several levels (after customer interaction with our call centers, after sales in the shop). Some of these surveys are performed immediately after the interaction and some after a few days and they include questions to measure the customer perception. We also make street surveys that address the feeling/perception of the competitors’ customers, so we get a broader picture.
    Of course, to measure customer satisfaction we have specific Key Performance Indicators, which we can split into two main categories:
    • The external KPIs – called Care -that measure customer satisfaction after contact or support by our personnel
    • The operational KPIs – called Ease - that measure the internal process efficiency and that help us identify what we need to improve to achieve the external KPI targets.

    PWI – As emotions are a big part of an experience, how do you address them?

     Ms. Dubois – We made a project in which we analysed the worst complaints with the technique of a storyboard on the wall, where we detailed the different steps and highlighted the process (with the relevant issues) and the customers’ emotions at each step.
    For some colleagues having evidence of the customers’ emotions/feelings was really like “opening their eyes”. As a consequence of this analysis, we were able to put together a significant training program to create awareness within the process manager community and help them understand the impact of our service process steps on the customer perception.

    We also implemented another project, called “Simple & Friendly” to increase the awareness of how to behave and how to show their empathy to the customer.
    We printed out and distributed to all our call centres and shops a charter, listing behavior rules to follow with the customer. Awareness for front-end employees means for example: communicating to the customer that they understood the issue and their worry, that they will try to find a solution and that they will follow up with the customers.

    PWI – Which are the more difficult customer needs to satisfy - the conscious or unconscious needs?

    Ms. Dubois – Actually the needs of customers are quite basic/simple, normal and logical; they want to be served, to get prompt answers/solutions to their problems and to be treated nicely. Our challenge is to propose easy solutions despite the complexity of telecom technology and the impact of external circumstances. For example, the weather conditions of last year’s summer have caused severe outages and delay in our repair & installation operations.
    Another example is the pack including fix and mobile products: it is great for the customer to have access to internet everywhere but complex to manage “behind the scenes”.
    We are constantly working on our internal processes and on the integration of our legacy systems to mitigate these risks and to improve our services.
    In 2012 we want to provide customers with an improved service in our shops, which will better meet their expectations and make it simpler for them.

    PWI – By listening to your customers you can learn about their requirements. How do you manage the “unsaid”, often even more important requests?

       Ms. Dubois – I have to admit that so far we did not focus much on the “unsaid” because we concentrated our efforts into the “said”.
    We began last year with the program “Simple & Friendly” to improve the atmosphere of active listening and emotional bonding with the customer that allows us to hear their unsaid requirements, but it is a work in progress.


    PWI – Could you tell me more about your function and operational excellence at Belgacom?

    Ms. Dubois – The focus for 2012 will be on the theme “first time right”. This campaign is meant to decrease errors and therefore reduce the calls to the customer services for complaints. This implies reviewing all our behind the scenes processes end-to-end and trying to simplify them as much as possible. We have set new ambitious targets for improvement in our processes, to become “simpler” (internal efficiency) and to improve the interaction with the customer (Friendly areas).

     Short Biography
    Pascaline Dubois holds a Master’s degree as a Commercial Engineer (Catholic University of Leuven) as well as a teaching certificate.

    She has over 30 years of diverse business experience mainly in the audit, finance, general management and customer experience areas. 
    She started her career at Goodyear as an Information System Analyst in the European IT center.
    Two years later, she joined the De Smet Group where she held various functions from Financial Analyst to Managing Director of an affiliate company.

    Pascaline Dubois joined Belgacom in 1993. During the past 18 years at Belgacom, she has held various top management functions. First as General Audit Manager and three years later as Associate Member to the Executive Committee. Subsequently she became Group Controller of Finance in 1998 and in 2000 she became Director of the Directory Information Services department. In September 2009 she was appointed as the
    Vice President of the Customer Experience & Operational Excellence area for the residential market. 

    Pascaline Dubois

    VP Customer Experience & Operational Excellence
    Consumer Business Unit

    Koning Albert II laan, 27
    B 1030 Brussels

    T +32 2 202 21 64    

    Disclaimer - Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Belgacom, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.

  • 10 Dec 2011 16:29 | Deleted user

    "Thanks, Ladies! Lessons learned from female bosses"
    An interview by Alessandra Zocca


    Alessandro Musumeci, Direttore Centrale Sistemi Informativi (DCSI) at Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane (Italian Railways)

    Alessandro, you mentioned to me that in your career you had the opportunity to cooperate with clever female bosses and peers, who taught you a lot. Could you please give me some examples?

    Mr. Musumeci – True, Alessandra!  During my career I had the chance to work with some exceptional female bosses, who taught me ethics and management. Here are some brief personal stories:
    a)    In 1979 I started working as a math’s teacher in a school close to Rome; I was a student who was 23/24 years old, completing my universitiy studies to become a mechanical engineer. I had no clue about the work environment, but I was lucky to be coached by the school dean, a competent female professor called Gina Geissa, who inspired in me the importance of closely guiding young students along their curricula and who taught me how to work hard and fine tune my skills in order to gain the respect from my older and more experienced colleagues.

    b)    In 1982 I joined SOGEI (Società Generale d'Informatica), an Italian IT company and I was assigned to the team of Maria Carolina Ottaviani, a female manager and a mother of four children. She was a role model for me, showing me how to balance work and life wisely, and gain excellent results too. Ms. Ottaviani, with her example, motivated a number of young, newly-hired people in her company and taught them the attitude of never giving up, but looking at their professional future with confidence.

    c)     In 1989 I was recruited in a managerial position - at Accenture – by the company partner Cristina Molinari (at that time one of the very few female partners in Accenture). From Ms. Molinari I learned the rules of a big multinational company, she introduced me to the sales experience, she believed in my potential because I had no previous sales background. Ms. Molinari pointed me to the appropriate training in Europe and in the USA; she coached me so well that I can candidly affirm that I owe her my professional achievements which lead me to become an executive able to cleverly plan, manage suppliers and negotiate.

    d)    In 2002 I was hired as IT Director at the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research by the lady Minister Letizia Moratti. She showed trust in my competencies by assigning to me the management of a crucial outsourcing bid valued at more than 300 Million Euros, which I lead successfully.
    Ms. Moratti later became the Mayor of Milan and in 2006 she asked me to move and work for her as IT Director for the Milan Municipality. I can tell you, Alessandra, that Ms. Moratti was absolutely passionate about her mission and her work (to which she dedicated from 12 to 16 hours a day), she was for me a real role model of competency, determination, ethics and honesty.

    Alessandra, to be totally frank, in my professional life I met female managers/executives who were on average professionally better than their male colleagues and who were more open to sharing their knowledge with others than the male executives/managers were.
    I am not sure I would have been able to reach my current position, if I hadn’t met these invaluable ladies in my professional career.

    Which are the skills/qualities of managerial women that are unique compared to men's ones?

    Mr. Musumeci – In the professional women I have come across during my career I have always appreciated their determination and dedication to achieve their goals, from the big picture to small details, not leaving anything to chance!  I could notice this determination in female managerial colleagues because, in order to be recognized, they continuously need to demonstrate their competencies and their professionalism.
    I learned a lot from these lady managers, they showed me that success is not due to chance, but thanks to our abilities, efforts and professional honesty in our work.

    On the contrary, based on your experience, which are the unique skills/qualities that a man manager can teach to professional women?

    Mr. Musumeci – Unfortunately the fact that women continuously need to demonstrate their competencies and give the best of themselves could become for women an element of risk; as a metaphor it is like somebody always driving a sport car at its maximum potential, with the possible consequence of ruining its engine. This constant tension to prove themselves might bring women to make some mistakes.

    Male managers are generally more relaxed in their role, because the labour market is still dominated by men; successful women are considered as “real gems”. Additionally, men are better able to balance family, work and personal interests, while women often cannot always control their tension and might become aggressive.
    Male managers are more oriented to team building than female managers and succeed in keeping teams united, sometimes even with a strong arm; it might be an innate attitude in men or it can be developed through several experiences of camaraderie (football, military service, etc.), while women sometimes lack team spirit and might tend to be very competitive towards other women … sometimes without any effort to hide it!

    Your career, Alessandro, had a creative evolution; this makes me think it has been based on transferrable skills: which ones? Could you highlight the key milestones of your career?

    Mr. Musumeci – In my career I have always been careful to expand my professional horizons and enlarge my competency base at any potential opportunity, avoiding being assigned constantly to the same type of role (some companies try to do this when somebody performs so fantastically in a specific position).
    In 1986, for instance, my boss – who, outside his job, was the editor of an IT review – offered me the opportunity to write some articles; I accepted this offer and in a few months I became a regular writer in this journal. This journalistic role opened many doors for me, both in the company I joined in the meantime and with clients and professional associations.
    Another example is my involvement in the university: while I worked in Accenture it was proposed I give some lectures at the university (of course for free), in a few years this cooperation became a four year contract for teaching IT at the engineering faculty. It has also been thanks to this experience as a university lecturer that the Minister of Education & Research chose me to work for her, as I said before.

    I could mention other “chances”, born as little things which developed into concrete opportunities, but the key message I want to share with you, Alessandra, is that money has never been my prime focus; money comes and goes, while your competencies and your professional/social network are your “true capital” in which to invest your energy. Financial satisfactions will come as a consequence of the network you have built and the skills you have accumulated.

     Short Biography
    Born in Rome in 1956, Alessandro Musumeci graduated in mechanical engineering in 1980 at Rome University. He has developed his career in Italian and international companies (SOGEI, Informatica & Telecomunicazioni, Gruppo COS, Gemini and Andersen Consulting), mostly in the banking and government sectors (Banco di S.Spirito, Ministery of Justice and University of Naples).
    In 2002 he became IT Director at the Italian Ministry of Education & Research, in 2006 he joined the Milan Province Administration as IT Director and was also in charge of the technological design/development of the Expo that will take place in Milan in 2015.
    Since 2008 he has being covering the role of IT Director at Ferrovie dello Stato (Italian Railways).
    Outside his job Alessandro has played a number of other roles:
    •    2006- 2010 President of the Italian Federation of IT Executives (FIDA Inform), which includes 1.000 IT Directors
    •    Lecturer at the University of Rome for the Engineering faculty, at the University of "Tor Vergata" and at the University of Cagliari for the Information Technology faculty
    •    Currently he is part-time professor at the University of Salerno for the Organisation Development curriculum
    •    Journalist since 1991, he has published over 400 articles about information technology in the main specialized magazines
    •    Director since 2002 of the magazine “Idee e Traguardi” (ideas and targets)
    •    Author of the book "E-Government e Scuola" (e-government and education) in 2003
    •    Member of a number of committees  and boards (AIPA-ASSINFORM-ANASIN,Consorzio Nettuno and GARR, Italian UNESCO, Forum of Information Society at EU Commission)
    •    Contributed to the preparation of the law Moratti/Stanca for e-learning universities.

    Alessandro Musumeci
    Direttore Centrale Sistemi Informativi (DCSI)
    Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane S.p.A.
    Piazza della Croce Rossa 1
    00161 ROMA - Italy

    Tel. +39 06 44106774
    Personal fax: +39 06 45590701
    Mobile: +39 329 4205201

    Disclaimer - Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane S.P.A., nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.

  • 10 Dec 2011 16:06 | Deleted user

    "Do what you enjoy"
    By Sonia Busselen, PWI PR team


    Sonia Busselen

    Knowing that the skills we have are adequate for the job is one of the requirements for being in the flow, as a state of consciousness where we are so absorbed by what we are doing that we don’t even notice the passage of time – hours feel like minutes.

    For flow to occur, we need to have a balance between our skills and the high challenges we are tasked with. When the challenge is high, yet the skill set for the challenge is low, we are in a state of anxiety. If this condition persists for prolonged periods of time, without relief, we enter a cycle of stress which could lead to burnout.

    Another form of stress that we are often reminded about is the stress caused by “technology overload” – excessive e-mail, cell phones, text messaging, Blackberries, all of which end up creating a loss of focus and affecting productivity. Our modern angst of not being able to get it all done leads us to a multitasking frenzy. A Time Magazine article explores the issue of multitasking and concludes that frantic multitasking actually deludes us into thinking that we are getting a lot done, while in reality we end up getting less done and the work quality suffers.

    Also don’t forget the stress coming from “cognitive overload”. Leaders are particularly vulnerable to cognitive overload as they are typically required to consider a lot more information than the rest of us. Interestingly, in an article by Dr Howard Gardner, The Synthesizing Leader, (which appeared in The HBR List: Breakthrough Ideas for 2006), we learn that the single most important trait of future leaders in the developed world, is the ability to synthesise information. It also involves asking questions such as “Does this information form a coherent story?” and “Do these trends make sense?” In our data-rich world, selecting which pieces of information are worthy of our ever shrinking attention span is a key competency for reducing stress and, ultimately, being more effective as a leader.

    Besides learning how to effectively synthesise information, what can we do to help ourselves, our colleagues and employees to minimise stress? Here are some strategies to consider:

    1. Actively develop leaders’ leadership skills
      Companies must make sure that their (new) leaders have the appropriate tools needed for their people management responsibilities – this is a key requirement to helping them succeed and minimise stress. This includes mentoring, providing a relevant leadership skills assessment to uncover strengths and areas for development, assisting in the creation of a learning action plan and providing leadership training and/or coaching. It also means providing ongoing support and feedback.
    2. Manage leaders’ performance pro-actively and avoid under-employing people
      Create conditions that allow all your team to be in “the flow” while they achieve results. In addition to ensuring that individuals have the skills adequate for the job, this also entails setting and communicating clear goals and expectations and providing immediate feedback on how well a person is performing – helping employees understand the effect of their efforts. This means not waiting until the annual review to have a discussion of the employees’ performance and confronting them with a laundry list of “improvements”. Moreover it is worth mentioning that keeping individuals in positions where their skills far exceeds the challenge is also stressful, and ends up taking its toll.
    3. Reduce stress through commitment, control and challenge
      Not everyone, of course, is subject to stress: Some individuals have very strong resilience and not only are they better able to cope with stress but they also thrive on it. While everyone else is stuck on the problems, they focus on solutions and have a one track mind: Moving forward. They don’t waste time worrying about what they cannot change and focus only on their area of control.
      The personality traits of ‘stress hardy’ people, are:

    ·       Commitment, being committed to something that is meaningful, for example work, community, family; staying engaged and involved in ongoing events, even in the most trying of circumstances, rather than feeling isolated;

    ·       Control, believing in our ability, through our efforts, to turn events to our advantage rather than adopting a passive and powerless victim mode;

    ·       Challenge, viewing change, whether positive or negative, as an opportunity to learn, rather than as a threat.

    We can all benefit from these pointers in times of stress.

    1. Create a “Stop Doing” List
      A concept, borrowed from Jim Collins’ ‘Good to Great’ that is useful in minimising stress and achieving clarity of focus is creating a “Stop Doing List”. Those who built companies that went from good to great “displayed a remarkable discipline to unplug all sorts of extraneous junk”. We all have “To Do Lists” but how many of us have created a list to isolate and halt pursuits that don’t serve us well any longer? What are your energy drainers? Are these among some of the offenders that may cause you stress: internalising others’ criticism, fragmented boundaries, power struggles, unprotected personal time, useless networking, continuous one-way favours? What can you eliminate to make room for what energises you and bring you closer to achieving your goals?
    2. Focus on strengths
      Focusing on your core business – that which you do best – is the most efficient way to bring about long-term growth and profit. By refocusing on what you do best, it will also be easier to spot inefficiencies that drain your business. The concept transcends business, though: If we don’t narrow down our activities to a fundamental core from which we can grow, a strategy becomes much harder to develop.
    3. Avoid fighting battles you don’t need to win
      Pick your battles wisely. How often have we heard this? Yet, in the heat of the moment, do we stop for a second and think: Is this truly worth fighting for? That is, for example, entering into a contest of wills with a person who has no apparent authority but who has great influence. This individual is very adept at working behind the scenes and you can easily find yourself unwittingly on thin ice, wasting your valuable, non-renewable energy. How much stress we could eliminate if we were guided by such a philosophy - if we decided to devote each day only to that which is worthy of our attention, our personal achievements and our organisation’s achievements?
    4. Focus on priorities
      Minimising stress also means looking at our life through a holistic lens: addressing our needs in each area, whether it is physical, emotional, intellectual, psychological or social. What are some daily practices that you can introduce to create reserves in each of these important areas of your life? Reserves help us when we feel depleted from the day’s stress factors. If you need inspiration in this area, consider reading Dr John C. Maxwell, Today Matters: 12 Daily Practices to Guarantee Tomorrow’s Success. Maxwell provides 12 practical guidelines such as practicing and developing good thinking to gain an advantage, practicing commitment to gain tenacity, pursuing growth to give us potential and developing priorities to give us focus. The book is a reminder that “we choose our life by how we spend time” – people who achieve their potential act on their priorities every day.
    5. Consider promotion outside of management
      Finally, it is worth mentioning that that there is another form of less advertised stress: that of the unwelcome promotion. Not everyone enjoys leading others. We can derive an inspiration from 3M, a company which provides their technical people with parallel dual career paths, known as the “dual ladder” system. This means that individuals can still progress in their careers in terms of compensation and other manifestations of advancement without having to enter the management ranks.

    Can we conclude as an alternative definition of success: Do what you enjoy!


    The hardy executive: health under stress, by Salvatore R. Maddi and Suzanne C. Kobasa, Homewood, Ill.: Dow Jones-Irwin, 1984.

     Good to Great, Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't

    by James C. Collins, HarperBusiness, 2001

     Short Biography
    Sonia Brusselen holds a Master’s degree in Archaeology and Art History from the KUL (Catholic University of Leuven) and a degree in Business Management from HUB (Hogeschool Universiteit Brussel). She is certified in Six Sigma Project Management and in Lean by the University of Michigan.

    She managed change processes and developed business strategies in multinational companies active in the fields of medical equipment, water treatment, international courier services, automotive, banking and consultancy.
    Constantly aware of the powerful human forces and processes that really influence the success of a company she specialised in the human side of management and obtained the International Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

    Having started her career as Urban Archaeologist for the City of Louvain, she has gone back to her roots and is now focussing on guiding people through the world of Art and Culture in Belgium and abroad in an interactive way.

    She has been a member of PWI for more than five years and communicates with the press about PWI events.

    She writes for the OMPP (Organisation Mondiale de la Presse Périodique) and is fluent in five languages.

  • 30 Aug 2011 23:11 | Deleted user

    "Diversity management starts with developing people, one by one"
    Alessandra Zocca and Hilde Helsen from PWI met Albert RAGON, CEO Danone Belgium

    Albert Ragon

    Mr.Albert RAGON
    CEO  DANONE Belgium (Administrateur Délégué)

    The first “AXA Wo_Men@Work Award” was bestowed to Albert Ragon, General Manager of Danone Belgium.

    As you might know, this award goes to managers of companies, champions in promoting a fair gender balance within their company in Belgium.

    Since “equality” is on the PWI Brussels agenda, we went and talked with Mr. Ragon to know more about how Danone manages diversity and equality.

    By receiving the AXA Award, Danone has been publicly recognized as a company displaying best practice in gender balance management ...

    Mr. Ragon – Between the nomination and the granting of the AXA award I had to step back and reflect on the model in place at Danone, because for me what we do is managing individuals, not women or men. We do not have a “plan for women” specifically, but, indeed, at Danone 60% of senior management positions are filled by women, we have 3 ladies in our executive committee, our approach works.

    The issue is not gender balance, on the contrary diversity has not to be taken as a constraint, but as an opportunity, a source of wealth.
    The real problem for a company is talent: how to acquire and retain it, therefore talent management is part of the core business and a key pillar of Danone Individual Development Plan (IDP). We are talking here about 800 people, 500 in one of the biggest manufacturing sites of Danone in Rotselaar and 300 in the office in Brussels.
    It is important to address people one by one, not to consider them as a group, they are not clones …If you address them one by one, you create enormous loyalty to the company and provide professional opportunities (we can source 80% of jobs from inside).

    In the Individual Development Plan (IDP) we clearly separate “Potential” from “Speed of Career”, they are two different dimensions, this is the major point: at Danone potential is not equal to speed in career. 
    Potential is a mix of technical skills and leadership, while with speed of career we mean that there are a number of possible career paths for employees based on their potential and several accelerating factors or constraints (for ex. travelling, sabbatical leave etc.). In other words there is flexibility for employees in how to achieve their own potential.
    A lot of energy is spent in identifying each employee’s potential and we are very transparent in communicating the evaluation results, what they could reach, because people need to see their possible future in the company.
    On the other side employees share with the company their medium-term ambitions and aspirations in order to shape together their career path; it is crucial to talk to each single individual, one by one, to understand what they want both professionally and in their personal life.

    You underlined leadership; in your opinion, can leadership be learned, developed?

    Mr. Ragon - Sure, 50% of our training budget goes to leadership training. We need to ensure we have enough leaders for the future of this company! Today 250 out 800 employees are leading at least one person.

    Leadership can be learned and developed. For that, we need a common language of leadership. Some people have real talent for that, some have more limitations; some people are very shy, some have empathy, but leadership t does not come only naturally. Things like giving feed-back, communicating efficiently, delegating to other people, active listening, are skills that you learn, not a natural behavior. We invest in our people to develop the CODE leadership: committed, open, doer, empowered/empowering.

    The Leadership CODE

    Committed: being committed to living the Danone values each and every day; being dedicated, steadfast, engaging in an ambitious vision
    Open: demonstrating empathy and respect on all levels; Networking, connecting outside Danone

    Doer: taking responsibility and risks to show the way forward; being practical, resourceful, and responsive; doing the necessary leg-work efficiently and effectively

    Empowered/Empowering: delegating to other employees, which means relying on the potential of group strength; providing regular and constructive feedback based on accurate individual assessment. Developing healthy ambition, search for opportunity to grow, for self and others.

    Have you remarked differences in leadership between men and women? And in team-working?

    Mr. Ragon – I do not see generally a lack of leadership in ladies compared to men. I see some men with stronger leadership, some men with weaker leadership; I see some men who are introverted and some women who are extroverts and vice-versa.  I rather think, instead, that men always try to show what they have achieved or what they are best at doing, while women tend to be more modest with what they have achieved.
    Regarding leadership, the best leadership skills I have observed belong to women, who combine the childcare responsibility with working, they show high flexibility, resistance to pressure and multi-tasking ability. Female employees do not stop their career because of their leadership style, but often because they have a clash between work and family. From my experience the real pressure that forces some women to give up, to stop the battle, is the maternity period (senior managers), where some of them lose confidence they can develop their career.

    Regarding team-work, I do not see a difference in teamwork between men and women at Danone.
    Team work is an essential, is part of leadership, is a necessity, not “a nice to have”. So you don’t become an employee of Danone, if you don’t have this attitude. We want very talented people that work well together.
    When you talk about managing the leadership of each individual, how do you deal with the diversity of situations?  How does this individual focus help gender balance?

    Mr. Ragon – Let me give you some examples, true stories: one of our talented young sales people came to us and expressed his intention to take one-year leave to develop some social business in Africa. We let him go, he started a social business in Senegal and after one year he came back. It was clear that he had gained a lot of experience and maturity. In the short term the organization suffered from lacking this talented person, but in the end it was an advantage, because he is back stronger.

    Another example: some years ago a young lady in our company was managing small customers very successfully.  She went on maternity leave for her first child and when she came back she had the opportunity to be promoted and  take a bigger customer. But in fact she decided to stay with her previous customer, not to increase her workload after coming back from her maternity leave. It was not easy to manage in the team but we accepted it. A few months later there was another opportunity and she took it.

    Another example: I joined Danone Belgium in 2001 and I decided to create a new position. After a long process and a shortlist of two candidates, a woman got selected. When I called her she said she could not take the role because in the meantime she was now pregnant. But we stuck to our principle of the importance of potential and, as she was the best candidate, we chose to struggle for four months without her. Looking back at those years, this person has achieved a lot for us and made a brilliant career for herself. It can mean sacrifices in the short term, but it pays back in the medium/ long term.

    As you can see through these stories, taking each individual into account and accepting not only his/her talent but also his/her constraints or wishes, enables us to leverage these talents. As women are as talented as men, they also find more opportunities to develop their careers.

    In the history of Danone, Antoine Riboud described in the 1970’s the “double projet économique et social” (Dual economic and social project), leading our organization to take into account the expectations of all counterparts around our business. It has led to all the Social Responsibility initiatives in our Group. But in the area of People Management, it makes it natural to us to listen and to find career solutions that are acceptable both for the company and for each individual. And we see every day the added value it brings to our business : talent, enthusiasm, commitment. From women as well as from men.

    Apart from the potential maternity constraint, do you envisage other barriers to women’s professional progress to the board? It cannot be only maternity … not all business women are “moms”

    Mr. Ragon – You are right, actually we should talk in broader terms. In addition  to children, we must consider any other factors that can interfere with the career speed, for example a personal passion for sport or art or theatre or music, social or political engagement.

    Again, I think, there are not mental barriers anymore at Danone. Today in my senior management I have 60% of women, so there is no gender problem here; however I have seen cases of ladies that struggled and were close to giving up or who left, and in many cases it was a question of maternity. And of course there are objective constraints related to maternity - e.g. in jobs that require intensive traveling - that results in a choice for employees who are mothers to take or continue that job or concentrate more on the children, but this is equally applicable to any other passion of the single individual.
    The issue is when the employees feel the pressure from their company that if they do not accept a situation or a promotion which does not fit with their personal life, then their career will be over. In Danone, the separation between career paths and potential enables the resolution of situations caused by temporary personal constraints.

    In Danone and, I think, in other modern companies people are open minded, there is a real growing acceptance of equality of opportunity, the question is more the way to achieve it. In my 21 years in Danone - CEO of Danone Belgium for the last 4 years - I have never seen men consciously stopping the career advancement of women.

    I wonder whether there are there still men at the top of organizations that do not favor the promotion of women to the board: if you refer to a few years ago, then there were men (individually) that could see women as a change, as competition, as a problem. Probably it still exists in some places as a principle. If there is a choice,  more or less consciously, taking a man is considered as safer.

    How can equality of chance be increased?

    Since I have received the “AXA Wo_Men@Work Award”, I had the opportunity to think more about equality.  I had the chance to be invited by some companies to talk about gender balance issues and I was surprised that in those big companies the audience consisted nearly only of women … who confessed maternity was a real concern regarding their career.

    I believe men do not realise the situation of women, men believe that there is equality of chances, but they underestimate the difficulties for women. It is not that they do not want to take measures in this direction. It is more that they do not “feel” the need.
    If men talk publicly about favoring gender equality, this will move the issue forward. Therefore, the real challenge is to involve men in the gender balance agenda.
    I am more aware now that it is crucial to address the topic of equality with  practical elements and not based on theories or ideals, men should talk “openly and honestly” about the gender balance. It opens new perspectives, and I re-emphasize: you need to fully embark men in the process.

    Do you think that quotas will help women professionally?

    It is still true that for a woman to achieve exactly the same career as a man is harder, so it is important that women and women’s organizations strongly raise the issue of equality of opportunity.
    But, ... I fear that quotas will not be the answer because, if you lose  women (for example for work/life balance issues) at the age of 38-42, two or three levels below reaching the board level, then they are not there when you need them for the board. You need to have gender balance along the whole pipeline.

    However, I believe quotas  can have a wake-up effect on the topic of gender equality  in the company agenda.

    Probably, in Europe in 2020 40% of the members of boards will be women, I think it will happen, but this will not solve the issue of gender equality, unless it is managed at all career levels, from the beginning.

    Diversity should not be only related to gender …

    Yes, agreed, we have other diversities to take into account, for example the social side, the 50+ employees, employees pre-retirement… how to keep these people motivated? The population at work is older than in the past, the age of retirement is higher, there will be this major issue in our geographical area. By managing employees one by one you can sort out the diversity and gender balance issues, taking them into consideration case by case.

    At Danone we take all diversity problems very seriously, we have part of our objectives/bonus based on social results (for example safety at work). We check with HR that the objectives, including the social ones, are met.

     Short Biography
    Albert Ragon started his career with the Danone Group in 1989, as a Marketer with Kronenbourg, and then progressed through various marketing and sales positions, before being appointed International Marketing Director Health Brands within the Dairy Products Division in 1999. 

    He was appointed Marketing Director of Danone Belgium in 2001.  In 2005, Albert Ragon became General Manager of Danone Ireland.  In October 2007, he returned to Belgium to become General Manager of Danone Belgium.

    Disclaimer - Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Danone, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.

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