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Advocating for diversity and cultivating inclusion at Vitafoods Europe 2019

Businesses need more than just field expertise to be successful; they need a workforce that is engaged, passionate and productive. Across the world, companies are prioritising diversity and inclusion initiatives as they increase employee creativity and productivity. Vitafoods Europe 2019 hosted a Diversity & Inclusion breakfast, open to all attendees, to put this important topic on the table for discussion. Here's what people had to say at the event.

Women in the workforce

As with most companies across the globe, men still dominate 80% of senior management and executive level. Within the natural products industry, attendees shared a common concern for leveling the field between men and women in the workforce, with attendees from Marealis AS sharing their proactive strategy to recruit a woman for a senior role within the business. There is a clear need to invest in internal initiatives that support and empower women by providing them with the tools, skillset and coaching to climb the corporate ladder. It's down to brands and players to raise industry-wide awareness about women in leadership, but then also bring focus back to individual companies and what can be done to put wheels of change in motion. Representatives from Kerry explained how equal rights are addressed within the company and outlined the mentorship programmes in place to empower women. 

Parental leave 

Following on from discussion around female empowerment, another key issue that emerged from the discussion was around split parental leave, and supporting women rejoining the workforce after having a child. Commonly, women drop out of the workforce early in their career to have and raise children. Globally, roughly 25% of women do not return to work after having a child, and roundtable attendees agreed that few women are able to commit to full-time hours and 'pick up where they left off' when they do. 

Split parental leave, flexible working and transition support were all topics highlighted pertaining to 'life after kids.' Women need assurance that their company will understand and address the challenges that come with parenthood. While men conventionally take little paternity leave, and fortunately, shifts are already underway to allocate split parental leave and provide tailored support to women returning to work. Additionally, there is still work to be done from a hiring perspective to rethink how businesses recruit and onboard women who have had a career gap whilst raising young children.

Building the business case

While we may like to think all businesses embrace the modern day, in reality, traditional models and single-minded thinking still prevail and create cultural challenges. When it comes to cultivating a company culture that is accepting and embracing of diversity and inclusion, change often has to be motivated by numbers, said a Prinsen Berning representative.

When it comes to building the business case to implement and promote diversity and inclusion, DuPont shares that 35% of diverse teams outperform less diverse teams, and diverse companies are 70% more likely to capture new markets. The more recognised a business is for its inclusive culture, the more likely it is to attract and retain talent. Diversity and inclusion initiatives are undoubtedly a benefit to the bottom line—not only do they attract and retain talent, but they also improve brand image,, create competitive edge and engage employees, in turn generating improved productivity and ultimatley, more profit. 

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