Free Subscription

  • Access daily briefings and unlimited news articles


Only $34.95 per year
  • Quarterly magazine and digital
  • Indepth executive interviews
  • Unlimited news and insights
  • Expert opinion and analysis

FMCG leaders talk women in the workforce

Photo source: B&T
Photo source: B&T
Photo source: B&T

If you hadn’t already heard, today is International Women’s Day, a focal point in the movement for women’s rights.

International Women’s Day is a celebration of all women, and in our case in particular, a celebration of women in FMCG.

Gone are the days when women are limited to working as rank and file workers. Major FMCG companies worldwide have seen powerful women rising up the ranks in recent years, from Amazon’s Indra Nooyi to Mondelēz’ Amanda Banfield. They have promoted several game changing visions from gender equality to projects that pushed major FMCG multinationals in the right direction to succeed.

Inside FMCG talked to several female FMCG leaders about International Women’s Day and their views on female representation in the sector

Amanda Banfield – Mondelēz President for Australia, New Zealand and Japan

Amanda-Banfield-BWAmanda Banfield has provided strategic leadership of the three-country business units during her two years as area vice president and in January 2019 she was elected as area president.

As one of the biggest food companies in the world carrying popular brands such as Cadbury, Oreo and Philadelphia, setting an example of female leadership is important to the business.

Banfield told Inside FMCG that Mondelēz International is committed to supporting all of its people through various stages in life.

“We encourage open conversations about unconscious bias and diversity and actively seek to address gender equality within our workplaces. We believe that by having a truly diverse workforce, we are able to provide our vast range of consumers with the right snack, for the right moment, made the right way,” Banfield said

At present, 47 per cent of its total workforce in Australia is female and the company has committed to progressing diversity by embracing people from all walks of life – different cultures, backgrounds, ages and experiences. This she said catapults the company to accelerate a consumer centric growth.

“41 per cent of our senior leaders in Australia are female, which is considered best in class. Having truly diverse leadership teams can only help our industry meet the needs and wants of Australian consumers. While we’ve made great progress over the last few years, we still have a lot of work to do as a community to truly embrace diversity,” Banfield said.

Esme Borgelt – Kellogg’s Managing Director, Australia & New Zealand

Esme Borgelt headshot

Kellogg’s Esme Borgelt, managing director for ANZ advocates on having more female representations at the cereal company. Borgelt was recently assigned the top job at the cereal giant after 14 years at the company, taking over from its previous powerful female leader, Belinda Tumbers.

I am happy to say we’re in a great place with 45 per cent of our senior positions held by women but there’s still room for improvement. A great example of how we are driving this agenda forward is that we recently appointed our first female plant manager to run our Botany manufacturing plant – this was a really proud moment in the factories 90 year history,” Borgelt shared.

She said that Kellogg’s has quite a strong pipeline of female workers that share talent and experience in investing in mentoring programmes, leadership development courses, external conferences and networking opportunities. This she said helps in creating future female leaders, “doing our bit to address the under representation of women in leadership roles in our industry.”

Kellogg’s has created an initiative, Women of Kellogg, which is part of the Employee Resource Group. The cereal maker has provided its female employees various opportunities from networking to career development opportunities.

The company has also launched K-Flex that allows employees to have a more balanced work environment, including unconscious bias training and a new flexible working program. Flex Schedule program enables employees to have a work-life balance by allowing them to work at different hours and location.

“There is definitely an opportunity to appoint more female leaders in the FMCG sector. While there has been a lot of improvements over the years, women we are still significantly underrepresented in leadership roles as whole in our industry. This means we are missing out on the benefits that having a more gender-balanced workforce delivers as an industry,” Borgelt told Inside FMCG.

“Study after study has shown that a more diverse workforce is better for business. Diversity increases innovation by bringing different mindsets to the table. It enhances reputation with an increasingly discerning customer who is attracted to brand values that align to their own. All of this, in turn, drives profits.”

Borgelt said she is proud to be included in a company that has a founder who has pioneered promoting diversity in the workplace. They are still embodying his values, which is fairness and equality.

I truly believe that as women in leadership roles, we have an obligation to support and lift up other women in the industry. I personally do this by mentoring and sponsoring women across our industry on their own career and development journeys so we can see more and more women reach the c-suite in our industry,” Borgelt added.

Belinda Tumbers – Kellogg’s Managing Director, AMEA Snacks

Belinda Tumbers 5Belinda Tumbers was the managing director at Kellogg’s for three years, before recently taking responsibility for the cereal giant’s AMEA Snacks division.

“As a company, we do a lot to drive diversity as we recognise that diversity is linked to strong business results. Our founder W.K. Kellogg, was a pioneer in employing women in the workplace and reaching across cultural boundaries and that still exists in our company today,” said Tumbers to Inside FMCG.

She said that the company’s Women in Leadership forums allow women to share their learnings and experiences to each other. They have a dedicated program that provides good work programs for women who are returning from maternity leave.

“I am lucky in that I worked in a diverse business in ANZ which had close to 50 per cent female / male split and now in Singapore I am seeing a similar level of diversity which is very encouraging particularly on the leadership team which is 60 per cent women and 40 per cent men,” said Tumbers.

She still thinks there’s a lack of women in the workforce despite the rise of female bosses in the ranks as she sees a progress over the last five years as more women are becoming sales directors and managing director.

“Women account for only around 7 per cent of CEO roles in Australia so we are still very under represented as a whole. Diversity brings new thinking, a different perspective and is proven to drive better top line and bottom line results so it is a no brainer for the FMCG sector to embrace this and improve diversity within the sector,” Tumbers explained to Inside FMCG.

The gender pay gap is one of the biggest issues in business. But for Kellogg’s, she said this isn’t as much of an issue as the company has introduced an annual gender pay gap review.

“We looked at every role in the organisation just so it remained a key focus and we could identify if there were any issues across the organisation but I was happy with the outcome of the review. Kellogg as a whole has a very good remuneration process which is gender agnostic – the key is to ensure there isn’t any bias creeping in with managers but on the whole we are in a good place,” said Tumbers.

She believes in supporting other women in the industry as she herself mentors colleagues within Kellogg’s, including those working outside the company. As a member of the Chief Executive Women, Tumbers was able to sit on a scholarship committee that awarded outstanding women scholarships. The program allows women to enable pursue their career paths by providing opportunities to develop and advance their careers.

“I also invested time presenting at Women in Leadership conferences sharing insights from my own personal journey. I am passionate about helping women to succeed particularly in our industry and am looking forward to seeing what I can now unlock across the region in my new role based out of Singapore,” said Tumbers.

Kathy Karabatsas – Managing Director, Lion Dairy & Drinks

LION MD Kathy Karabatsas

Another strong female leader in the space is Kathy Karabatsas, managing director of Lion Dairy & Drinks, who targets 50:50 gender representation by 2026 and said the company is well on the way to achieving that goal.

“At Lion Dairy & Drinks’ our Senior Leadership Team is there already with an equal mix of women and men and our Extended Leadership team is not far behind. We also have more women than men in our F19 graduate intake, Karabatsas said.

“That’s all very positive, but overall men still make up the majority of Lion Dairy & Drinks’ workforce. Our gender balance has also slipped slightly in the last 12 months. We recognise that we have a way to go to reverse this trend to achieve that 50:50 target by 2026. Our goal is to achieve it through our focus on culture, talent acquisition, policies and practices.”

She sees gender balance as a “growth-enabler”, “a greater balanced workforce enables greater diversity of thought to solve problems and deliver growth”. Last week the Workplace Gender Equality Agency recognised Lion as an Employer of Choice for Gender Equality for the second year running. Lion New Zealand was also recognised as one of that country’s best places for women to work by The Gender Tick.

“We’ve closed the gender pay gap… and are also remaining vigilant to keep it closed,” Karabatsas told Inside FMCG. “There needs to be more women in all roles. The challenge in my mind is not that women cannot be successful in taking on a leadership role, nor that they don’t have the will to make it happen; my observation is that the challenge is in having the courage to go for the role and take on the imposter voice in their head that says they can’t do it.”

“In my coaching/mentoring discussions with females in our organisation, I focus on coaching them on how to build confidence; stop the imposter in their mind from bringing them down; and delivering on their leadership role with confidence, courage and impact.”

Karabatsas is also an ambassador for the National Association of Women in Operations, supporting other females in the FMCG sector and business.

“We’ll continue to focus on building a diverse mix of people and perspectives when hiring and forming teams. This is not only the right thing to do, but it also makes good business sense and we will be focusing on building this mindset and skillset across our business in F19,” said Karabatsas.

Lion Dairy & Drinks will be celebrating International Women’s Day with a morning tea and panel discussion to celebrate the significant contribution of women to the company and the broader community. The company is also asking its people to make donations to the charity Fitted for Work that assists disadvantaged women gain employment.

You have 3 free articles.