By: Varshaa Kutik, Diversity and Business Impact Regional Lead- APAC & EMEA and Blanca Villela Global Diversity and Business Impact Lead, Cargill
Cargill recently globalized their business resource groups (BRGs) and encountered a variety of challenges in doing so. The question early on became, “how do we translate the vision, mission and impact of our business resource groups that are already well established? And how do we add value to the business like we’ve done in North America and Europe in Latin America and Asia Pacific in a manner that is locally resonant?” Cargill’s many BRGs in North America include The Cargill Asia America Alliance, The Disability awareness council, The Ebony Council, The Hispanic Latino Council, The Pride Network, The Veterans and Military Support Network and the Cargill Women’s Network. Given that women make up a smaller percentage of the overall workforce than men, Cargill leaders noticed that the male female ratio widens as you consider more senior positions in the organization. As a result, BRG leaders knew that Cargill’s Women’s Network (CWN) needed a global presence. To get the process started, regional leaders were equipped to respond to questions from local leaders, such as:
It is important to state that the intention here is not to minimize differences between the LA region & the APAC region as there are several regional, country specific and location specific nuances. While the regional leads support every BRG to align with the global framework the local BRG leadership is empowered to address and honor local needs. This article aims to provide a high level overview of the challenges faced by a global organization with its headquarters in North America as it attempts to provide a broad framework within which to address the global issue of gender inclusion across its multiple locations.
Local leaders recognized that gender inclusion and balance is critical for the sustainable growth of the business, but there was also a perception that creating BRGs was an ‘American’ approach to the situation. The leaders were previously exposed to multiple and often conflicting internal and external perspectives about building a more gender inclusive workforce that effectively mirrors the marketplace. The perceived ambiguity and uncertainty in problem definition and required solution, coupled with the human tendency to resist change, meant it was critical to assemble CWN chapters locally to drive change needed in a manner that would resonate with local leadership. FGD’s and gaining a better understanding of barriers to change revealed there was skepticism around segregating employees into different categories like females, people with disabilities, LGBT etc. These insights led to discussions about cultural differences, the emphasis on harmony and the need to blend in across several Asian contexts versus the perceived American approach that emphasizes visibility for historically underrepresented groups. The preference was to create business resource groups inclusive of both men and women to drive change and make business impact.
The key learnings to make the Cargill Women’s Network successful in the regions are:
Today, the landscape across the Cargill businesses in Latin America and Asia looks quite different. The regions have moved from an annual celebration of international Women’s day to location specific, localized CWN chapters with clear structures, accountability and focus. Well-defined action plans that link to the regional business plans along with a sharp focus on measuring impact and effectiveness is becoming the norm. Various CWN chapters are owning and driving diagnostics and need analysis, awareness sessions and trainings and external outreach activities. They have identified and segregated the barriers for women in the workplace to be primarily structural, cultural, personal and organizational, and have committed to driving infrastructure improvements, mindset shifts and engaging men in gender initiatives.
Some examples of the types of activities undertaken by the various local CWN chapters are:
Today, the local CWN chapters established across locations in the Asia and Latin America regions are well positioned to support a large and complex organization like Cargill with its multiple businesses to make small yet meaningful impact from a workforce, workplace and marketplace perspective.