The following article is written by Agrium Inc., Bronze Sponsor of The Gender Equality Forum 2017.
Agrium’s support of Principle 4: Promote education, training, and professional development for women
Women’s Inclusion – Driving Career Progress
With women making up over half of the world population and over 47% of the workforce in North America, Agrium, like many organizations, is working to ensure women are employed in meaningful ways. We realize it is not enough though to just supply jobs. We need to provide women with opportunities to reach their full career potential within our organization. professional development for women at agrium
In 2004, the Agrium Women’s Leadership Group was started as a grassroots organization with the vision to recognize, develop and enable the potential for women. From its origins as a small networking group in Calgary, the recently renamed Women’s Inclusion Network (WIN) has grown to reach all women across our global company through local chapters in office locations and at production sites, and a virtual network to connect women in small, rural locations. professional development for women at agrium
WIN is committed to creating an environment where women are recognized and appreciated for the skills and talents they bring to the business. Interactive learning sessions, skill development programs and opportunities to network with senior leaders are organized by volunteers at local chapters to meet the needs of their specific locations. In addition to the learning from these sessions, organizers benefit from building project management skills, expand their network by working with employees in different areas of the business and build their profile through exposure to senior leaders.
As part of the focus on building skill competencies and networks, WIN started a formal mentoring program in 2011. Research shows that having a mentor helps individuals with career development and learning, yet women are less likely to seek out or ask for a mentor. In order to help level the playing field, WIN introduced a formal mentorship program to test the interest of individuals. The original goal was to match 12 women with 12 mentors (male or female) who could provide direction and guidance. The response was so strong that the pilot group was expanded to 23 pairs.
We communicated regularly with participants during the 12-month pilot, and both mentors and protégés said they found benefit in the relationship. From this initial pilot, the program was opened to Agrium’s professional women in North America, Europe and Australia. Since 2011, over 260 pairs of mentors and protégés have been matched, and many of the protégés have experienced career growth since participating in the program.
In 2015, we built on that success with the launch of a pilot women’s leadership development program. With respect to research data that indicated that companies with high numbers of women leadership had better financial performance than companies with low levels of leadership (up to 35% in some cases),1 we investigated our internal process for hiring senior leaders. We found there was a great opportunity to help prepare our female middle managers for leadership roles through an in-depth development program.
After extensive consultation with executive leadership, the Women’s Inclusion Network Advisory Council launched an internal two-year program focused on skill development and sponsorship. In the area of skill development, candidates designed personal career development plans, received training on leadership skills, participated in personal development programs such as Speaking as a Leader and received personal coaching from an external resource.
In light of research indicating that sponsorship can have a stronger influence on career advancement than either skill development or mentorship, sponsorship was a key focus of the program. Like a mentor, a sponsor can offer insight and guidance – but a sponsor actively works to advance the career of a protégé – promoting, protecting, preparing and pushing her forward. Despite the known benefits of having a sponsor, women are 54% less likely than men to have one. That’s why we made sure to provide the candidates with access to a formal sponsorship program that included a selection of senior leaders from different areas of the business. professional development for women at agrium
Results and feedback on the program were positive. Of the six candidates who participated, one was promoted to a senior management position, two made lateral development moves and four candidates say they have increased their skills for the next level. As with all pilot programs, we came away with key learnings to improve the program, and those insights are being incorporated into the next phase program to be launched this year under the name Accelerate. professional development for women at agrium
Agrium’s leadership is pleased with the progress WIN has made in helping to advance the careers of women, but there is much more work to be done. As we move into the next phase of this long-term strategy, our objective is to continue to see more women taking on leadership roles and an increase in the number of qualified women we hire, retain and promote throughout the company. As our industry and our customers change, investing in our female talent will position Agrium as a global leader in sustainable development for both agriculture and women’s equity. professional development for women at agrium
1 Catalyst, The Bottom Line: Connecting Corporate Performance and Gender Diversity (2004).