“Diversity of perspective is how you innovate, how you disrupt the market, and how you grasp opportunities” - Isabelle Esser, Danone Chief Research & Innovation Officer.
What motivates a business leader to join another company’s board? And how does the gender balance of that board influence the business’s trajectory?
Welcoming our newest Board member
As Isabelle Esser, Danone Chief Research, Innovation & Food Quality Safety Officer, flew into London last month for her first meeting with fellow Board members, as the latest business leader to join this group, she explained what drew her to Tate & Lyle and her views on the importance of gender parity in leadership.
“I’m really excited to meet my new Board colleagues in person, having only met virtually until now,” Isabelle explained. “This is my first board appointment and I’m looking forward to bringing my experience of research and innovation, which I lead at Danone, but also playing a broader role in helping to shape the strategy and the future direction of Tate & Lyle.”
Transforming Lives through the Science of Food
Like many of our newest recruits, Isabelle was attracted by Tate & Lyle’s purpose and our opportunity to help solve some of society’s greatest challenges. “The company’s values are completely in line with my own,” she continued. “Tate & Lyle’s purpose is very similar to that of Danone’s and, with its focus on ‘the science of food’, it is right up my street! As a global company, I believe Tate & Lyle can make a hugely positive impact on everyday life in communities all around the world. That’s why I’m here.”
How to drive progress on gender parity
Isabelle has over thirty years’ experience in global consumer food and ingredient companies, including more than twenty-five years with Unilever PLC, where she played an active role in driving progress in equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI). “I’ve been Involved in EDI since 2000 and it’s something that is very important and close to my heart,” Isabelle explained. “From my experience at Unilever and in other companies, I know that representation in leadership can only be achieved through targeted interventions. That means looking for things like recruitment bias and subtle discriminations as well as assessing performance and promotion criteria, so we can identify the root causes and establish the right targeted interventions to meet our goals.”
Gender representation in our leadership
At Tate & Lyle today, 45% of our Board and 56% of our Executive Committee are women. Across the business, 42% of Tate & Lyle’s top 500 managers are women, and we are working to achieve gender parity in leadership and management roles by 2025. “I’m pleased to join a board, and work with an Executive Committee, that clearly recognises that diversity of perspective is how you innovate, how you disrupt the market, and how you grab opportunities. Across the wider business community, we’ve made good progress but it’s fragile and we need to maintain our focus otherwise we risk losing a lot of the advances we have made. I’m looking forward to seeing how I can work with my new Board colleagues and the wider workforce to continue to drive EDI progress at Tate & Lyle.”