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Learn from the best – Four women at the top of their game give their advice to aspiring leaders

Do something you care about says Pilar Cruz, President of Cargill’s compound animal feed and nutrition business

“Over 17 years ago, I selected Cargill because agriculture is so universal and fundamental to people’s lives – whether you’re in the poorest country or the richest. One can impact so many lives in a positive way. Furthermore, once I learned that Cargill’s purpose is nourishing the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way, I really felt that this was the place for me. Over the years, I’ve only grown to appreciate the people who grow our food more as I’ve got closer to our customers and suppliers. I’ve worked in many areas of Cargill – in numerous locations around the world – but it’s animal nutrition that I feel allows me to get closest to the farm and make the biggest contribution to helping farmers improve the performance, well-being and sustainability of their animals, operations and communities.”

Support others in a similar role

“We should also continue to set the example we want others to follow. We should lead with courage as companies and as individuals: hiring and nurturing people who look, sound and think differently so we can offer vibrant, inclusive, attractive workplaces that give everyone a chance to participate. And we should support our female team members and colleagues. There will always be times when gender bias puts us to the test. But we can meet these situations with resiliency – seeing such encounters as opportunities to enlighten and educate. “

Don’t change who you are to fit in, says Christine Tacon, CBE Groceries Code Adjudicator

“We can all learn a lot from what we don’t like that happens around us as well as that which we like. I resolved that I didn’t want to change the person I was to fit in, we need women at senior levels to change the dynamic, not to become men in skirts. Coming at the job in a different way is what diversity is all about.”

Be confident in your ability and own methods of working

“My way is not going straight for my powers but starting with a measured, business-like collaborative approach. There could of course be some correlation here that women prefer non-confrontational styles. I have only done two investigations in five and a half years. But I have achieved significant change through what I deemed as a collaborative approach. “Don’t try to be something else or conform to how others behave, however tempting it is if you are a lone female,”

Don’t be afraid to fail, says Amy Cornell, President of Agribusiness Council of Indiana and Vice President, Bose Public Affairs Group

“I think you have to create some level of a culture of honesty. Everyone’s trying to do their best all the time, but not everything that we do is a raging success. And helping people understand that that’s okay, right, it doesn’t mean you have to take yourself out of the game. If you’re a committee chair, and something didn’t go well for the organization, that doesn’t mean you can’t run for the board later. As long as you’re demonstrating that you learned from that opportunity, and you’re moving forward and continuing to be resilient, that’s what’s important.”

Be open to every opportunity

“I think opportunities are everywhere. It’s about inserting yourself into the opportunity that you want to have. I don’t think gender should be limiting in agribusiness. You may look at leaders and see all of these skills that they have and feel totally intimidated by it, but know that those leaders didn’t come into the workforce with all those skills and talents. They built them over time. So, look for opportunities, be open to opportunities. Don’t necessarily turn something down because it’s not in your normal skillset, be willing to stretch yourself, and you will find the opportunities. And pay it back! I got to where I am and am continuing to grow because people are continuing to invest in me.”

Assert your worth, says Frédérique Clusel,  General Manager Phileo Lesaffre Animal Care

“There are a lot of limits placed on women, particularly those of older generations, by themselves and their own internalized beliefs about their worth and capabilities. When you propose another job or a different mission to a man, he will immediately [respond] ‘yes, interesting, how much [does it pay]’ but not as many women do that. But why? It’s true it’s a new mission, so why should you not [dare to ask for a raise]?”

Dream big!

“When I was young, I was asked where I wanted to be…in fact, I dreamt too small; at 35 I was already in the position I imagined at age 50. I could have maybe dreamt larger….Whoever we are, we can dream much bigger.”


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