Mondelēz International’s Cebile Xulu remains a steadfast champion of D&I

Cebile is the co-chair of the Mondelez International sub-Sahara African D&I Council, which was instituted in October.

“When I joined Mondelēz International around three-and-a-half years ago, the organisation already had a substantial representation of women. Although there needed to be more of us in leadership positions, it was clear then that gender equality was viewed as an important priority for the business,” says Cebile, HR director of Mondelez International's newly-formed Sub Sahara African business unit.

When she joined as the HR Director for South & Central East Africa in 2017, the representation of women on the leadership team was between 30 and 40 percent but, over the last few years, that figure has soared to 55 percent within the South African business.

“And that was not something that happened by chance. It was a result of deliberate efforts and a strong leadership drive for transformation within the organisation,” she says.

Four pillars

Since then, Cebile has played a critical role in advancing the diversity and inclusion agenda at the American multinational snacking company. The D&I Council, which includes representatives from SSA main markets such as South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and various other smaller markets, collates outcomes of engagement surveys and other employee insights to set D&I priorities and monitors D&I targets and achievements including employment equity, succession plans, skills development, representation of women in leadership roles and so forth.

Mondelēz SSA has already seen success in a number of these areas – the SSA Leadership Team is made up of 63 percent women. The South African business also does well in bringing different types of talent into the business, specifically through investment in its early careers programme which enables a pipeline that is truly diverse. There is still a concerted focus around the underrepresentation of black candidates in certain functions of the business, and it remains a priority.

“The D&I Council is not a new idea. Mondelēz has long had D&I councils for each of the regions in which it operates and that bears testament to the fact that this is something that has been entrenched in our company and makes up the fabric and DNA of our organisation. it is embedded in our values and flows into our hiring processes, performance management and succession planning,” says Cebile.

Overall, the SSA business’s D&I approach is based on three pillars, which flows from the Global D&I Strategy. First is the focus on Culture – which aims at introducing KPIs/metrics that foster a culture of accountability at people manager level to ensure collective responsibility for creating an environment where people feel a sense of inclusion and belonging. It is also about mobilising brands and marketing partners to drive change, equity and inclusion.

The second pillar of focus speaks to Colleagues – and this is about the representation of women and other underrepresented demographics, ensuring diverse candidate slates for all external hiring, as well as bringing in diverse talent pipeline at early careers stage. “For Mondelēz International, the D&I agenda is more than just race and gender – we want to build a culture where all our colleagues can thrive by just being themselves and where our makers and bakers of our products are a true reflection of our consumers and the communities in which we operate”, says Xulu.

It is also critical to truly understand the macro socio-economic dynamics of each market when setting these D&I priorities. In Mondelēz Nigeria, for example, there is only a 10 percent women representation in the workforce, primarily because of legislation that prevents women in certain occupations from working night shifts – as well as societal expectations and concerns around women going into sales roles, centered around safety issues, as well as the impact of extensive travel on the family structure.

The third pillar focuses on Community – and this is about fostering and investing in multi-cultural partnerships that enrich the communities where we live, work and play. “We also want to actively cultivate our reputation thereby ensuring we are an employer of choice for diversity”, adds Xulu.

Also read: Mondelēz International’s Cebile Xulu tells the truth about Transformation

“In addition, we have been making a concerted effort to ensure that we develop and mentor a diverse range of service providers and suppliers in the communities to ensure that fruits of our D&I efforts are enjoyed beyond our internal environment. Because society needs this kind of transformation as much if not more than our organisations. Our purpose is what drives our focus on these issues to make sure that we leave a lasting economic impact in the communities we engage with” says Cebile.

Stop ticking boxes

“The SSA business unit operates in a complex context where we need to maintain a consumer-centric approach across a large geography with different cultures, a fragmented portfolio and varying emerging demand spaces, and this makes diversity & inclusion even more critical” says Cebile.
Being diverse and inclusive enables a business to benefit from the power of different thinking and life experiences. This drives innovation, and creative problem-solving as diverse points of view come together. More than creating a workplace that simply brings different types of thinking and talent together, Cebile says it is critical for organisations to create an inclusive workplace – where people feel they belong and that their point of view and voices are valued, valuable and heard. People need to feel that they do not need to wear a mask to be successful at work. This can definitely drive a business to more success, because it is able to retain the right talent as people feel enabled to do their best work and truly be themselves.

“Diversity and inclusion should not be a tick-the-box exercise, or about the bottom line – it needs to be a business imperative that is deeply ingrained in the values and purpose of an organisation,” says Cebile.

Cebile believes it is vital it is to have regular conversations around these issues, listen to people when they feel excluded, as well as solicit insights on what would make them feel a sense of belonging. Leaders should take action and not simply pay lip-service to these conversations. By doing that, and then making diversity and inclusion measurable – and the business and its leaders accountable for driving that change – companies can ensure that they are on the right track in effecting change and making diversity and inclusion an integral part of doing business.