General Mills’ initiative, Women in Leadership: The Power to Build the Future, centers on creating meaningful dialogue between diverse employees and senior leadership. The initiative is marked both by empowered employees who make recommendations that lead to real change and by senior leaders who continuously engage their workforce in conversations about diversity.
At the hub of the initiative is the Women’s Forum Offsite, an annual meeting of senior-level women at which critical issues are voiced by women and addressed jointly by the CEO, senior management, and the senior women themselves. Some of General Mills’ most successful personnel policies and programs – including the reformulated Individual Development Planning – have been improved through the Women’s Forum’s efforts. General Mills boasts other powerful employee networks, including the Black Champions Network that works to create culture change and increase the representation of African-Americans at General Mills.
CEO Stephen Sanger’s strong support of network groups, and his personal efforts to understand the issues of women at General Mills, have created a culture that is open and inclusive. He has demonstrated his commitment to diversity by setting ambitious numerical goals for the representation of women and people of color. As a result, the percent of women corporate officers at General Mills has increased from 14 percent in 1996 to 18 percent in 2000, compared to only 12.5 percent nationally.