Key takeaways from our latest webcast; Ensuring Diversity is a Priority in Food and Ag

Chrystiane Junqueira, VP of HR Centers of Expertise and Corporate Functions, Bunge

Ebony Webber, Chief Operations Officer, MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences)

Jennifer Walker, VP of Human Resources, ADM

Julie Zimny, Global HR Lead, Cargill Animal Nutrition

24th July 2020

Yesterday, we heard from four diversity champions from across our sector, who discussed why in these challenging times, focusing on diversity should still be a key priority for businesses in our industry.

We were left feeling determined and empowered to make change, and feeling positive that progress, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction to a more inclusive and diverse industry.  Many of the attendees also had their questions answered in a live chat with our leaders. We’ve rounded up the questions and answers below and summarised some key takeaways from an inspirational session.

Our contributors included

Chrystiane Junqueira, VP of HR Centers of Expertise and Corporate Functions, Bunge
Jennifer Walker, VP of Human Resources, ADM
Ebony Webber, Chief Operations Officer, MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences)
Julie Zimny, Global HR Lead, Cargill Animal Nutrition

Polls

Attendees also took part in four polls during the webinar. Check out the results below:

Questions and answers from our live chat

Leadership

Q. How can we support emerging leaders in other communities, or our own? How can we advocate and vouch for each other?

A. (Jennifer) Championing emerging leaders is key – how we amplify other voices and give exposure to other leaders, networks or within our communities. Reaffirming someone’s idea. Giving credit. Amplifying a voice – This person is doing wonderful work in this…You should know this person…How can we partner with this person? Shining a spotlight to magnify a voice.

Diversity

Q. Our agriculture organization has remained largely quiet during Black Live Matter and diversity discussions because we don’t have any policies or statements and want to make sure we can “back-up” our position (walk the walk). Any suggestions for how to get started?

A. (Ebony) Many companies have to assess where they start. I think the internal evaluation of your policies, workforce demographics and marketing images, all portray if a company has commitment to diversity and inclusion. After you have assessed your internal make-up, beginning to chip away at these internal processes that create barriers for obtaining the diversity you want to see. Most often, just a commitment to change is enough to get started

Q. Can you give examples of when it’s a good idea to celebrate a win or a success when it’s on a journey as opposed to end of a project?

A. (Julie) Celebrate as you go and recognize the small wins along the way. Whether it’s achieving part of a goal, or a milestone that’s in support of the larger strategy, I believe it’s important to communicate that progress!

Q. Which groups do you think require the most support and outreach work to create a more diverse workforce in our industry?

A. (Ebony) Those who are most underrepresented: Women, Ethnic minorities, and Millennials

Q. What about encouraging age diversity within teams and organization

A. (Julie) Absolutely! Our diversity efforts span a variety of focus areas, and we know that experience and time in the industry is so beneficial

Q. How do you think the black lives matter movement has influenced how your businesses now see diversity

A. (Ebony) For our organization, it has made it “ok” to discuss racial diversity, which hasn’t been at the top of the conversation when having these conversations with agribusinesses. Additionally, companies have begun to take stock of the “elephant in the room” and where they may need to make additional investments and look at their recruitment strategies to racially diverse communities

Q. My primary clients I work with are upper management in my region, all of which are older, white, males. I struggle with getting buy in that diversity and inclusion is critical to engagement and retention. How do we get buy in if the decision makers have similar lenses

A. (Julie) Increasing awareness is one of the first steps in engaging men as allies. We’ve worked hard to ensure that our leaders understand the impact of engaging women at all levels. Retention efforts have been in place for a number of years with tactics such as stay interviews playing a role in the strategy of retaining women in our business

Q. How can we increase diversity in more rural settings and jobs that aren’t office-based? What can organisations that support agriculture do to help increase diversity in agriculture on the farm

A. (Jennifer) We’ve found that partnership is key. At ADM, we have locations in very rural, remote settings. And all of my fellow panellists are finding that we are solving the same problem. We’re partners of Together We Grow: Advancing American Ag. How can we bring companies, academic partners, NGOS and gov bodies to create support structures and partnerships? We can’t solve this on our own, but if we can create strong partnerships and networks we can make communities – where we work/live – more attractive

Q. What do you think is the biggest barrier to diversity in our industry

A. (Ebony) Complacency is one of the single biggest barriers. Change is uncomfortable and takes effort and intention. Remaining with the status quo. It’s insane to think one can continue with the same recruitment strategies and hope to yield different results. We have to be willing to change things that don’t work.

Equality

Q. What can we do, at the secondary level of education to inform and prepare students for careers in agriculture?

A. (Chrystiane) There is  never a one size fits all due to how the industry operates globally. In my prior experience we connected principals of schools at the communities we operate. They always had a door open and partnered with us in building the solution that would fit best with that school.

Q. A lot of you keep mentioning mentorships, how do you go about getting a mentor?

A. (Jennifer) Ask! Engage with someone that you believe you could learn from. Being asked to share and partner with someone is one of the highest honours that someone can pay us. Mentors can be more senior leaders, our peers or those outside of professional setting. And, hopefully you can have several different mentors as you learn different things from different people.

Q. What advice would you give to a female student/agricultural entrant working in a global company who has experienced micro-sexism (often from senior managers) but fears reporting it will prevent progression in the business?

A. (Julie) Reporting is so important! The fear of not speaking up is real, AND if we want to shape the industry, addressing issues when they happen is imperative. Reporting will influence leaders and drive change!

Q. I work in training/ qualifications and development. What skills do you think are skills are most important to new entrants and how do you think we can better advertise Agriculture as a career?

A. (Julie) Great question! A couple of things come to mind for me. First, I think there’s a great opportunity to really market careers in agriculture as the industry provides a wide range: from trading to sales, consumer insights, quality and nutrition services. It’s one of the reasons we’re really focused on casting the widest net for candidates with a diverse set of experiences.

Q. I would love to learn more about the tool that Cargill used to examine job descriptions. Can you tell us the name of it?

A. (Julie) Absolutely! Textio is the company we’ve partnered with – you can find more information here: https://www.textio.com

Q. Can  you offer advice on how to effectively encourage young people into Agri industries?

A. (Ebony) Representation matters. Having mentors and programs in place to encourage these various career paths as well as a roadmap on how to obtain some of the well-paying jobs in the industry. In my experience, young adults want to work and have a good lifestyle. Lack of awareness of these jobs and exposure to what they entail is one of the barriers. Also, many have a negative, out-of-date idea of agriculture.

Careers

Q. I like the comment from Ebony that states “Negative out-of-date idea of agriculture” I experience this first hand as a mother of a teenage daughter. I find they don’t teach about ag in schools or women in this industry in school. What is a tactical approach to start these conversation at school age?

A. (Ebony) We have to begin to shape the narrative that agriculture is STEM. Without, agriculture, there would not be any other industry to work in because we all would be worried about how to feed our families. We have to work with our educators to ensure they understand these fundamentals.

Q. I’m interested to know how many women hold roles in executive positions in your companies? The global company I work for as far as I know doesn’t have any women in the executive/director level

A. (Chrystiane) In my experience I leveraged local agencies or cooperatives to partner with us in the journey so it is easier to respect  their culture, while educating them about the benefits of inclusion. When I say educate them I mean local leadership, females and males and even your current employees as well. We also started going to their school (middle school) talking about your company, the type of work… is it a long journey and you need to believe that you are seeding it correctly.

Q. What do your male colleagues think about the topic? Are they open to discuss this topic, does it sound serious enough to them?

A. (Jennifer) In my experience, absolutely. What I’ve found is that a great deal of my colleagues want to be allies, want to be good partners. Sometimes the obstacle is how to help, how can I be a good partner? But by recognizing there is an opportunity, a commitment to help – that’s how we can make progress, together. We can’t do it alone.

Key Takeaways

Jennifer – Diversity and inclusion can’t be a ‘project’ or an ‘initiative’ – it simply has to be the foundation for who we are and what we do. 

Individually we can see progress but it’s only when we come together as industry that we can build systematic sustained change. It’s the workforce we’re building for tomorrow. 

Diversity is not a sprint – it’s a journey and a destination that we need to grow and get to. 

Ebony – I see diversity as a celebration of the unique perspectives that everyone brings to the table. 

When acting on diversity, she say “Be intentional, be patient and be purposeful. It’s easy to slide back to the status quo if you’re not focused on being the change. 

Julie– Since COVID-19, we’re now prioritising performance over presence. We’re challenging so many assumptions since COVID-19 – we can allow people more time at home and they still accomplish everything the need to. COVID has accelerated the future of work. 

We now have a library of de-biased job descriptions and have seen more women applying (successfully) for job roles.

Chrystiane – COVID-19 has allowed us to reach quickly, and react together. Our leaders have a common understanding about what diversity and inclusion means, and how can the leaders lead more inclusively.  We’re working on dialogue and raising awareness of unconscious bias in women and men.

Watch the webinar back here, and join our community on LinkedIn to connect, share and learn from like-minded professionals in the food and agri industry.