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Nestlé USA

What I Want to Tell Every Woman About Building a Great Career

Nestlé's Chief Marketing Officer on Ways to Support Women Year Round

Below is an article originally written by Alicia Enciso published on March 5. This article is about PowerToFly Partner NESTLE. Go to NESTLE's company page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.

March marks the start of Women's History Month — an inspiring time to take part in committed discussion about women's experiences and reflect on our own challenges and successes. There's plenty to celebrate. In 2021, we see broken glass ceilings in every industry, and reflecting on our history reminds us how we got here. I'm also thrilled to see that this reflection is more intersectional than ever, recognizing that unique barriers exist for women of color, women with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ women. The work is far from done. As I look at the incredible women rising into leadership positions in my own marketing teams, I want to focus on the inclusion, belonging, and equity in our workplace that can help them meet their full potential.

While this month is a symbolic opportunity to pause and celebrate, it's also a reminder that this should not be just a moment in time. All year long, we should be looking for opportunities to support women in their careers to ensure we build a workplace that is strong and equal.

As I reflect on my own career, I want to share some of the key lessons I've learned and the experiences that have shaped my own development, and what companies can do to open doors for diverse talent.

Find The Right Mentor

In 2019, the Harvard Business Review reported that 54% of men had a career discussion with a mentor or sponsor in the last year, yet only 39% of women did. Why aren't women talking about our careers more?

At Nestlé, we believe mentorships are a vital piece in the puzzle when it comes to building an inclusive and diverse workforce. I've had many great mentors in my career. One mentor, Martha, was a trailblazer and one of the few women in leadership in her role at the time. She was tremendously ambitious and a great culture builder — just the kind of leader I wanted to be. I've also had male mentors. One in particular was very tough on me, always pushing me to do more and challenging my perspective, applying his pragmatism to my career development.

Finding the right mentor is all about recognizing your own needs — knowing the spaces you thrive, knowing where you need to be pushed. Try to find a mentor who can inspire and challenge you in equal measure. Not just a cheerleader, but somebody who has skills in areas where you have potential to grow.

My mentor Martha constantly pushed me to take on challenges I didn't know I was ready for. Thanks to her, I was able to deliver. Most of the women I work with are able to do the same.

Have the Courage to be Imperfect

During my 30 year career I've learned that self-doubt and expectations of perfection are huge challenges for women at work. It's often said that women are less likely than men to apply for roles where they don't meet 100% of the qualifications. Data confirms this — LinkedIn's research shows that women on average apply for fewer positions, and in particular are less likely to apply for 'stretch roles' that are more senior than their current position. I've had opportunities where I've needed mentors to convince me I was capable. Focusing on my gaps instead of my value could have been a barrier to critical career opportunities.

This fear of dropping the ball is very real for those of us who are stretched between work and parenting responsibilities. In 2020, we all had to adapt to an uncomfortable way of working. I spoke to many parents across Nestlé teams taking on the challenge of working and parenting from home during lockdown. That challenge is ongoing, but what many of us have learned from it is that we can rise to the occasion when the world is changing around us. In this case we had no choice — we had to lean in to the discomfort, we had to be open and honest about being imperfect.

Now, I am consistently saying yes to opportunities, even though they are new and unfamiliar. I have been pushed as a leader in the face of many unknowns, but I know I can do it. We need to challenge more women to see this as necessary in their career development. Challenging ourselves will mean sometimes not feeling prepared or proven yet, but in my experience you'll never regret the challenges you accept, only the ones you turn down.

Advocate for Equity

Throughout my 30 year career, professional mindsets have changed. We have so many fearless and relentless women in our history to thank for where we are today — we stand on their shoulders and should be proud of where we've come. We should also honor that work by continuing to make sure our policies, benefits, and culture are creating belonging and opportunities for everyone.

For me, it's a source of pride that salaries for male and female Nestlé employees achieve 1:1 gender pay equity at Nestlé USA. I'm proud of our progressive parental leave policy that makes being a parent and a professional easier for all employees, regardless of their gender, from Day 1. I'm lucky to work in an environment that celebrates and rewards employees that have been historically overlooked. That doesn't mean I will stop advocating for progress, especially as it relates to women's professional development.

We need to continue to have conversations about what barriers exist for women today, especially across intersecting identities, and come together to advocate for both formal and informal opportunities.

Let's all take inspiration from Women's History Month to celebrate those women who have helped break barriers in the past, reach out and continue the conversation today, and work to understand how we can continue our advocacy for women in the future. I truly believe that what helps women helps all of us. An equal workplace is a better workplace.

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