Women@IFF: How to Champion Change Internally

9:25 AM

In an internal memo sent today by our CEO and Chairman Andreas Fibig, he expresses that "as people around the world celebrate International Women’s Day and the movement to ‘be bold for change,’ we recognize that gender parity can only be achieved by empowering both women and men to reach for the common goal of equality.

Our work at International Flavors & Fragrances encompasses disciplines that have historically been considered male-dominant: chemistry, manufacturing, technology, etc. Yet, women thrive in our IFF offices, on our manufacturing floors and more and more in our leadership positions.

When we reflect back on our 128-year legacy, we can see that this has always been an organization at the forefront of leading change. Extraordinary women like Sophia Grosjman, Josephine Catalano, legendary in our industry, are a few notable examples of people at IFF who helped us to continually push our boundaries and explore limitless possibilities, embedding this spirit into the core of our business."

A Q&A with by Ana Maria Bast, Senior Counsel at IFF

Today, we take this opportunity to put a spotlight on one of the ways we are leading change internally through our Women@IFF group, spearheaded by Ana Maria Bast, Senior Counsel at IFF. Ana’s role includes overseeing the Latin America legal function and global real estate. She also supports the corporate finance group, including advising global finance, tax, and treasury, and provides legal support on mergers & acquisitions, and integration efforts as well as global commercial agreements.

In the Q&A below, she shares the story of Women@IFF and how this assembly showcases how IFF is always bold for change.

What is Women@IFF?

Ana: Women@IFF is a group at IFF that spans all levels and functions and is not sponsored by any particular department. We organize different types of events and activities focused on themes such as ways to enhance professional development, facilitating the integration of work and personal responsibilities, and building internal and external networks. Our hope is to provide a supportive space for women to learn from each other and support each other.

What sparked the idea? 

Ana: Women@IFF started in 2014, I had recently joined IFF two years earlier and was looking for a way to meet and connect with other women. I previously worked at a law firm on Wall Street where I was the most senior woman in my department. It was an environment with few women at the top and it was important to stick together to support each other. IFF is different. There are many more women here, but there were few efforts to formally bring us together. As I talked to other women at IFF, I realized that others felt the same. With the support of our executive sponsor, Anne Chwat, we formed a committee and hosted our first event in July 2014, entitled Women@IFF: A Conversation with Senior Women Leaders.

What’s ahead for Women@IFF? 

Ana: Women@IFF began in our New York headquarters and has evolved over the past few years. We’ve had representatives from the business units, Human Resources, finance, communications, legal, and others. There has been an increasing desire to have similar groups in other locations. For example, last year I traveled to our Tambore, Brazil office and met with women about starting a similar group there. My hope is that now that the New York group is fully underway, we can focus more time on working with women in other IFF locations to help them get their groups started.

The theme for International Women’s Day this year is to #BeBoldForChange, to help forge a better working world - a more inclusive, gender-equal world. What are ways anyone can contribute to this movement? 

Ana: I think there are many ways to work towards change - some big, some small. There are those who can affect larger policies to support women in our country, in our state, or in our workplace such as policies aimed at equal pay or maternity and family leave. But change will also come from the smaller steps each of us can take on an individual level - such as considering women in recruiting and development opportunities, sponsoring and mentoring women in our lives - they could be our daughters, colleagues, or friends.

In honor of International Women’s Day, Women@IFF will be hosting a breakfast for the women in New York and we will be asking exactly this question as part of the “Be Bold for Change” campaign.

I am excited to see what IFFers will come up with! For example, we can call for diverse candidate shortlists, take a junior female colleague to a major meeting or event, hail the success of our women leaders, or become mentors or sponsors to women.

Who/what has been a catalyst or source of inspiration to/for you? 

Ana: I find inspiration in many different people. The amazing women who have made it to the top of their respective fields but also the men and women who have supported them along the way. I find inspiration in women I know who have juggled careers and family and other passions and responsibilities and still find the energy to be genuinely good people. But as a mom one constant source of inspiration are my kids and the desire for them to have better role models and to inherit a world that is better than the one we live in today.

Ana’s advice on leading change within an organization: 

  • Take action. Don't be ashamed to start small. Rome wasn't built in one day. 
  • Be passionate and stay true to yourself. 
  •  Find like-minded individuals to work with - even better if you can find a sponsor that is higher up the chain to support your initiative and help guide you through challenges in the organization. 
  • Pencil time into your busy calendar to plan and implement your initiative. 
  •  Be realistic about resources but always try to move the needle forward. 
Follow @IFFInc #WomenatIFF on Instagram to learn more.

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