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Leading together

Building a diverse, inclusive workforce for the future


By Sonia Studer, Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Nestlé 

This year on International Women’s Day, we are celebrating the teams and individuals who are supporting the progress of gender balance at Nestlé.

Our products are present in the daily lives of millions of people around the world. In many countries, women make the majority of food purchases. They also represent the majority of the newly educated talent in the world today. So it is critical for our business to ensure that women, and their views, are properly represented in the workplace and across the value chain.

I come from a very diverse background – having lived in several countries and with parents of different nationalities – and I know that my experiences have shaped how I relate to others. I strongly believe in a diverse workforce that is reflective of society and our consumer base. As Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion, my mission is to actively promote and insist on a culture of inclusivity and acceptance across all of our operations, making the most out of our different cultures, ways of thinking, and unique skills and experiences.

Diversity & Inclusion is an integral part of Nestlé’s culture. It is one of the ways to bring our purpose – enhancing quality of life and contributing to a healthier future – and values to life. At Nestlé, we believe we can make a difference by embedding Diversity & Inclusion in everything we do. For this, we focus on three areas: culture – building an inclusive culture that values the different talents and experiences of our employees; innovation – innovating to serve the needs of our diverse consumers and customers; society – engaging with communities in the diverse markets where we operate.  

Our values are rooted in respect: respect for ourselves and for others, respect for diversity, and respect for the future. To support this, we embed gender balance in all our Human Resources practices, including selection, succession planning and promotion. Every Nestlé Market has a Diversity & Inclusion action plan with a strong focus on gender balance.

We also offer flexible working options, childcare support (where feasible), unconscious bias and gender training, mentoring and coaching for women, and dual career support. And in 2015 we launched a new Nestlé Global Maternity Protection Policy granting all women a minimum of 14 weeks’ paid maternity leave. It is one of the most progressive policies in the Food and Beverage Industry. These programmes help support women at Nestlé, offering them the right opportunities to succeed in the workplace. As Béatrice Guillaume-Grabisch, Market head of Nestlé Germany, said, “I am convinced that we can better leverage women’s talents for stronger sustainable business success, as diverse and inclusive teams perform better.” 

A few years ago, Nestlé committed to being a gender-balanced company, by enabling conditions in our work environment to achieve annual increases in the global percentage of women managers and senior leaders. We have succeeded so far, with 30% of women in market senior leadership positions and 37.5% of women in management positions. As a working mother in a dual career situation, I know we still have work to do. I will continue to pursue our efforts to enable better gender balance at all levels.

I’m often asked what is the one thing that we need to do to make change happen? Well the answer is there isn’t just one thing. Rather, we should commit to changing something every day. As Virginia Barria, Market Head in Equador, said, “I am committed to generating active participation of women in different forums to continue inspiring other women in the country and the organization.”

We can all step out of our comfort zone, challenge our assumptions and simply dare to care, by leading together, women and men of all generations.