Marta Muñoz Ledesma is the Human Resources Director for Iberia (Spain and Portugal) at The Coca-Cola Company and part of their European organisation “Strategy & Insight”. She shares her experience of diversity and inclusion in recruitment as well as the initiatives and projects to promote these topics in a company’s daily life.
During your professional experience, have you personally been a witness or a victim of discrimination?
The straight answer would be no. I’ve been in very good companies where diversity and respect were the values. But as a woman, I’m aware that women really have to face some barriers and limitations. Sometimes the situations “force” us to be more self-demanding and strict with ourselves, to demonstrate to others we are as capable as men. Many times in the past, I’ve found myself in moments where I thought I was living in a world of men. But honestly, I never felt discriminated against. I would have loved to have more women around, but only to have more diverse thinking and perspectives. This is changing a lot. As an example, in Coca-Cola, we’re committed to boosting gender equity in leadership positions. We almost have parity in the executive teams, which better greater balances how we make decisions, how we look at different perspectives. The ratio was 60/40 when I arrived five years ago, we are close to 50/50 now.
How can companies promote diversity and inclusion, at the individual level and at the ecosystem level?
Companies must work so that the diversity of the communities in which they operate is reflected in their workforce and value chain. To do so, they must take into account multiple dimensions such as gender, race, ethnicity, religion, generation, disability, sexual orientation, etc. from many different angles. At Coca-Cola, we strive to create a very inclusive culture, defined by our seven core values: leadership, passion, integrity, diversity, collaboration, quality and accountability. We bring them to life in policy for attracting talents as well as in employee retention and their development… On the talent acquisition side, for instance, we have very specific rules to ensure there are equal numbers of men and women candidates in all processes. Same for our employee development policy and practices. Internally, we also promote: the Diversity Leadership Council, which sponsors councils around the world to create inclusive environments; the Women’s Leadership Council, striving for female sponsorship of female talents at senior levels in the organisation; or the Multicultural Leadership Council which focuses on recruitment, employee retention in the pipeline and the development of multicultural talents. We also have an example of generational diversity: the Millennial Voices Leadership Council. The council is helping with a wonderful program offering employee development using reverse mentorship: millennials being mentors of senior leaders, and vice-versa.
Companies must work so that the diversity of the communities in which they operate is reflected in their workforce and value chain.
As HR Director, do you have other top priorities for diversity & inclusion?
We need to keep investing in initiatives that push strategies to create more diverse and inclusive environments. We still have work to do on inclusion, on hiring talents with different capabilities. Another topic is on generations. Senior talents are a great value for the company because of their knowledge, experience, and maturity, in how they can help other generations. We need to find more ways to keep these talents in the organisation and put them in positions where they can really prepare the new generations for the future.
In your experience, what are the most effective measures to encourage diversity and inclusion in recruitment?
First, we need to educate the managers on talent acquisition. Educating and helping the hiring managers to control their own biases is fundamental; they are not always aware of having them. Once you’ve created that awareness, you need a minimum set of rules for all the aspects of diversity and have parity among the candidates. That really reflects what we want to have in the organisation. These two aspects working together.
Educating and helping the hiring managers to control their own biases is fundamental; they are not always aware of having them.
According to a recent study from McKinsey, “diverse employees are struggling the most during COVID-19”. What can companies do to meet their specific needs?
Listening to employees and providing resources to keep empowering change is critical. Especially in this time where some people are struggling with uncertainty and working from home. In Coca-Cola, we have strong business resource groups recognised as important voices to enhance cultural sensitivity and awareness, and at the same time, they support business related adversity and initiatives. We have different teams working together, called “Stand As One”, with the mission to listen and identify specific needs of employees, to boost collaborative environments where people can help each other, find different solutions and ways to move forward in relation to inclusion and diversity. These missions are more important than ever. We also have a huge team working globally on well-being initiatives, both physical and emotional, which is a priority at Coca-Cola.
What about in smaller companies with less human or financial resources?
The smaller the company is, the closer the listening should be. Actually, listening is very simple but we make it difficult. Leaders are not always open to listening to what employees have to say. For small companies, listening is fundamental, leaders must be much closer to the employees than in big companies. And the will to listen should come from the CEO, from the top. The CEO is the key example, the role model, to show how important this is for the company.
According to the International Labour Organization, companies committed to equal opportunity and gender diversity have nearly 60% more chances of seeing their profits and productivity increase. How can this be explained?
Diversity and inclusion are at the heart of our values and our growth strategy; they play a part in our success. Different cultures, races, genders, abilities, bring different ways of solving problems and perspectives. That, in Coca-Cola, is seen as more creativity; creativity that we translate into more opportunities for growth.
Marta Muñoz Ledesma is an alumna (1993) of ESCP Business School’s Master in Management programme.