5 Questions with Karen Ress
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Posted by: Barbara Francella
Karen Ress is vice president and general manager, international brands for Nestlé Waters North America. A member of
the company’s retail management team, Ress represents the organization on the
company’s Balance4Performance Team, dedicated to gender diversity, and serves on the Global Waters Gender
Balance Steering Committee. Ress’ career began in packaging procurement with
General Cinema Corp. and has included roles in purchasing, production scheduling
and fleet operations for Latrobe Brewing; brand management for Rolling Rock
beer; and sales management, trade marketing, category marketing and brand
management for The Perrier Group of America and Nestle Waters North America.
would you characterize Nestlé Waters
North America’s commitment to gender diversity/equity?
The company’s recognition of the need to focus
on gender diversity or "balance” began in 2007 in the retail organization,
which includes sales, marketing, customer service and corporate communications.
Our first initiative was to become a Network of Executive Women sponsor, learn
about what other organizations were doing in this area and define our
activities for the next few years. Today our commitment to gender balance spans
the entire company and is a high priority for future business success.
internal initiatives and strategies support that commitment?
It starts with the commitment of senior
management and a "know the numbers” mindset.
The specific initiatives are functional and corporate mentoring programs
(we have 41 senior female mentees this year); executive roundtables; Connect
& Discover workshops; sponsorship of NEW and the Women’s Foodservice Forum;
and gender education that includes understanding and leveraging the differences
between men and women, unconscious gender bias and stereotypes. We also are
including gender awareness content in our existing Beginning The Journey and
Make Your Mark leadership training programs.
We are recognizing gender diversity in our
Organization Talent Review process to ensure women with high potential acquire
the skills, the visibility and opportunities for advancement.
are the company’s leaders held accountable for advancing women to leadership
All leaders support and encourage their female (and
male) employees to participate in the activities and organizations I just
detailed. We are working hard to understand the underlying issues and
opportunities to develop a robust gender scorecard across functions that look
at a number of dimensions of the hiring, retention and promotion processes.
Eventually we will determine individual and functional key performance indicators.
does NEW support the company’s initiatives?
NEW is an important asset. We have 100 members
who are leveraging NEW resources and events. Members and other employees are
exposed to leadership skill development opportunities through regional
meetings, national meetings and other resources, such as the NEW Leadership
Academy. We have NEW regional committee members in both Canada and the U.S. and
participate every year in the Leadership Summit and the Executive Leader’s
Forum. I have brought eight male senior executives with me to the Forum over
the last three years, which has opened eyes and sparked some very interesting
conversations! Of course NEW is a great forum to build critical relationships
with our industry colleagues and partners, which enhances our corporate
is the advancement of women to leadership roles important to the organization?
Having women at the table when strategic
direction is debated, new policies are developed, organizational structure is
defined and roles and responsibilities are discussed is critical because women
bring diversity of thought, experience and expectations. We manufacture and
market healthy hydration products. They are purchased largely by the female
head of household. It is just common sense and great business sense to have
women central in the decision-making process. We want to attract the best
talent to Nestlé Waters and that means building an organization and culture
that is attractive to our daughters. They have to see how they will fit in and
have a great career with us.
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