Accelerating the Advancement of Women Leaders 


August 20, 2018

Just how frequently additional chairs were needed to accommodate the growing number of participants in the Men’s Gender Equity Platform hosted by WFF at Executive Summit this July is a good indicator of the level of interest among male leaders in championing women in the Food Industry.

“Every man in the room expressed a strong desire to contribute to growing the role of women leaders in the Food Industry,” said EVP & COO, Dairy Foods for Land O’Lakes, Inc., and member of the Executive Committee of the WFF Board, Chris Roberts. “We look to WFF to LEAD THE WAY through their research, insights and best practices on the most effective ways to sponsor and mentor women to drive gender equity and business growth,” Roberts said.

One approach WFF is using to support male champions is a new Community of Interest (COI) that will meet for the first time during the 2019 Annual Leadership Development Conference (March 9-13 in Dallas). Through the Male Champions COI, we will listen to and support men in their goals to advance women leaders in their own organizations and throughout the food ecosystem.

Recent research in Harvard Business Review found that having a male sponsor can help level the playing field for women. In the Food Industry, where half the entry-level workforce is women, there is a particularly strong opportunity to develop more women leaders and advance them into positions of greater influence. In the Food Industry, 20% fewer women reach the first promotion to manager than their male colleagues.

“There are times when men can feel a bit awkward when engaging in conversations about gender equity.  We simply were not trained to have them,” explains James Pogue, Ph.D., consultant and session facilitator. “There is also significant angst around saying the wrong thing. WFF plays a key role in facilitating these important conversations among leaders who clearly understand the business case for gender equity but need support in figuring out the best ways to identify and cultivate female talent.”

Some early takeaways from the discussion included:

  • “Gender equity must be discussed as part of the broader topic of diversity and inclusion.”
  • “Succession planning must be part of the conversation to ensure sustainability.”
  • “There needs to be continuing conversation with men to help them understand their role and to answer the question, What about me?”
  • “Keep educating women and men around the data.”
  • “Help us see our blind spots.”
  • “Create additional sessions for men at Conference to help them understand the experience and their role as champions.”
  • “WFF is a valuable resource across gender lines.”

For more information about the Male Champions Community of Interest, contact WFF VP for Human Resources and Organizational Effectiveness, Tim Johnson at tjohnson@wfforg.

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