Invest in your network
By Catherine Francois, Global Director - Diversey Consulting - Risk Management & Food Safety & member of the LEAD Membership Committee, and Jill Hopper, freelance writer
Women do not invest enough in their networks. And that’s something Helayne Angelus, chair of the LEAD advisory board, is committed to changing.
Helayne has a career spanning more than 30 years in the consumer goods and retail industry, as well as being the founder and former president of NEW – Network of Executive Women – in the US.
At Procter & Gamble, she was a driving force in building a much stronger presence for women throughout the business.
She believes LEAD can play a key role for the food industry, by filling a gap that has long existed in Europe.
Building better connections
“Both retailers and manufacturers have similar challenges – women in the upper echelons of their organisations do not have the chance to regularly share and create business opportunities,” she says.
LEAD can be part of the solution, by giving women access to role models, key business insights and learning opportunities to support them in the pursuit of their career goals.
A mission to change corporate culture
Helayne joined Procter & Gamble’s sales team in the late 1970s, at a time when only 3% of the firm’s leaders were female. P&G’s recruiters visited Columbia University, an all-male institution, in a search for new talent, but Helayne attended Barnard, which was all female. Through sheer determination she signed herself up on the all-male interview schedule – and got the job.
In time, Helayne embarked on a mission to drive a change in corporate culture to make it easier for women to achieve their professional goals, within an environment of support, coaching, mentoring and sponsorship.
When she left P&G 33 years later, women occupied one third of leadership team positions.
The key ingredients for success
Helayne strongly believes in the need to build diverse companies that reflect the consumers and communities they serve. In the course of her work to achieve this, she has identified the key ingredients that are critical for success:
• Commitment to gender diversity has to be driven from the top
• A strategic plan is required, to address how to advance women through recruitment processes, training, development programmes and job retention
• Personal reviews are critical for developing the talent pool, setting entry level requirements and planning for succession
• Existing policies and procedures should be challenged with a ‘why not?’ attitude
Diverse companies perform better
Research shows that diverse organisations outperform those that are homogenous. This reaches beyond gender to include age, sexual orientation and ethnic origin.
Helayne points out that those businesses which have women present in the C-suite also generate better financial returns.
“Retailers need to think differently about how to provide more flexibility in the workplace for women who strive for career development but who also want to be present for their families, especially in more operational roles,” she says.
The role of male leaders is also critical to attract, retain and advance women within their organisations. Helayne wants LEAD to be an inclusive environment, where men have a place, and where they too can benefit from training and personal development.