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“The pool of women talent is bigger than that of males and we’re still not tapping into that,” says William McClain VP of HR, Bunge

William McClain on supporting the Women in Food and Agriculture campaign 2019 

William McClain is Vice President Human Resources, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia for Bunge, a food and agribusiness company. In addition, McClain oversees human resources and related strategies for the company’s global agribusiness and trading product lines. With a unique view on leadership and diversification within the industry, McClain volunteered to serve on the advisory board for the Women in Food and Agriculture initiative, hoping to be a part of the discussion and the solution.

“I think that by doing this I can help bring a bit more awareness to myself, first of all, so the conversation is more constant and regular,” McClain says. “The other important thing that comes from it is engaging my colleagues around that, keeping the focus on that dialogue a little more often.”

McClain’s resume also boasts impressive experience in the area of talent acquisition. The food industry is currently faced with the mounting challenge of feeding the growing population of the world while putting increased emphasis on sustainability and corporate responsibility. More than ever, the industry is craving qualified, passionate and determined individuals to guide the industry into its next phase through innovation and ingenuity. With women representing only 22 percent of board seats for Fortune 500 companies—there remains untapped potential.

“The pool of women talent is bigger than that of males and, you know, we’re still not tapping into that,” McClain says. “So if there’s a way we can start really making an impact in doing that, that’s why it’s important.”

With opportunities available, what traits are hiring managers looking for when sourcing new leadership? McClain says that finding talent can often be one of the harder aspects in this niche industry.

“A lot of what we look for in leaders are people who are agile and, I think, very entrepreneurial,” he says.

In addition, career advancement isn’t always an upward linear motion. Candidates with a diverse background and a willingness to take on new challenges and learn new things are sought-after.

“Typically, organizations aren’t flat. A lot of people think of what might have been called the ‘career ladder’ and think of career progression as always kind of moving to the next level. I think when it comes to a career, I think it’s a bit of understanding that it can also be you expanding roles and gaining experience in other ways.”

In addition, in order to maximize the potential for finding these individuals, companies should make sure they’re looking at a balanced pool of candidates, McClain says. “I think there’s work to do in helping folks understand that there is unconscious bias.”

“We need to ask ourselves, are we going to the places where women are at—are we in front of them?” And it’s not all factories and combines—”it’s important to showcase your company’s core values” and what we do to serve the value chain in order to attract the right people.

And flexibility is key when attracting and retaining female talent as well as the younger generations. “We [as companies in the industry] can start thinking a little more outside of the box and adapting ourselves in terms of the policies we have—centered around flexibility in terms of work hours, flexibility in terms of work location, and maybe flexibility in how I use my overall benefits package.”

On supporting the upcoming WFA Summit, McClain says “If there’s a little something that our part of being on the advisory board or any comments or ideas I might have that might actually start making a difference, I think it’s the right focus.”

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