ohini Anand, PhD, is the Senior Vice President Corporate Responsibility and Global Chief Diversity Officer, Sodexo, and Chair, Catalyst Board of Advisors. In a three-part Q&A blog series, we asked Dr. Anand to share details about her pivotal role at one of the world’s largest multinational corporations focusing on “quality of life services.” Below is the third and final part where we asked about what challenges she faces and what she believes the future holds for diversity and inclusion.
How do you shift the focus beyond gender?
We have five key priorities that are the focus of our global diversity and inclusion strategy: disability, gender, generation, culture and origin, and sexual orientation and gender identity. So while we have a strong focus on women globally, our priorities are inclusive of various dimensions of diversity, based on the needs of the individual countries where we do business. Our global strategy and taskforces on each dimension, along with clear outcome metrics and the guidance of executive sponsors, help to drive the efforts in these areas.
How do Sodexo’s D&I initiatives specifically impact women of color and other people of color?
Over the past five years, Sodexo has seen a strong increase in women of color’s representation throughout leadership roles. From 2012–2017, the number of women of color in executive roles has increased 27%.
Currently in the United States, women represent 40% of our 20-member executive team, of which 20% are women of color. And of the total number of women on the executive team, 50% are women of color.
So while we’ve made substantial progress, our programs remain focused on women of color and other people of color—for example, our Women of Color Initiative, which launched in 2015 to promote the development, engagement, and visibility of high-potential women of color—and our five key dimensions of diversity and inclusion globally.
How can others follow Sodexo’s example? What is the first step for other companies looking to build more inclusive workplaces?
Some best practices that have been successful at Sodexo include:
(1) Confirming leadership commitment, engagement, and visible role modeling.
(2) Building a strong business case that is clearly understood, and aligning diversity and inclusion to the core business strategy.
(3) Building and executing a systemic strategy with a simultaneous top-down, bottom-up, and middle-out approach.
(4) Establishing clear metrics and accountability measures.
In your opinion, what are the biggest barriers to diversity?
Lack of leadership commitment. Ensuring you have commitment from the top is critical to achieving results. Also, influencing leaders to see the business benefits continues to pose a challenge. While we often hear the argument that we have over-exhausted the need for a business case, we have found that if done well, this continues to be a game-changer.
What are some new and innovative approaches that are working, in your opinion?
While not necessarily new, I believe that innovative strategies to engage men as allies continue to be important. And sponsorship continues to yield positive results.
You’ve received many prestigious awards and recognitions over the years. What are you most proud of?
Receiving the 2012 Catalyst Award is one of the recognitions I am most proud of. Being a part of such a rigorous and thorough process that resulted in winning an award that is so prestigious in the D&I community, is definitely something I am extremely appreciative of.