International Women's Day, which falls on March 8th, is a time to highlight and recognize the talents and contributions of women. Baxter International Inc. fosters a culture of inclusion, and one in which diversity is optimized and valued. Women and men across Baxter are actively involved in a multitude of initiatives to attract and develop talented women in the organization.
Programs for Professional Growth
In Asia Pacific, Baxter's efforts in promoting inclusion and diversity have made a meaningful impact on increasing the number of women in leadership roles. The region's "Building Talent Edge" initiative, started in 2005, aimed to create a 50/50 gender balance across managerial positions throughout 14 countries in the region. This focus helped the region achieve this goal in 2008, two years ahead of plan, and the momentum hasn't stopped.
Last year in Japan, Baxter started a Work Life Balance & Inclusion Council, which facilitates a mentorship program for women employees and Women@Work career-accelerating programs.
"In Japanese culture, women in management positions don't always feel appreciated in their workplaces, or by society," says Junko Etchuya, Baxter Senior Manager, Talent Management, who is a key member of the council. "At our events, employees receive empowering messages from the company and increase their aspirations to advance their careers."
Part of the program includes promoting a balance between work and personal life, including flexible working arrangements, something that Etchuya appreciates in her own career and as a mother of a two-year-old.
"At many companies you have to work so many hours in order to get promoted," she says. "But in Baxter's Japan office, we base promotions on performance, not hours spent in the office."
Women@Work programs have also gained popularity in Baxter's Latin America and Canada region. During Inclusion and Diversity Week in November, women employees came together in focus groups to discuss their professional experiences, expectations and development barriers. Various countries also launched an internal awareness campaign to highlight and share the experiences of women leaders in the region.
Contributing Toward Meaningful Dialogue
Baxter's Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region has been elevating the conversation about inclusion and diversity. Last October, Baxter EMEA was a silver sponsor of the 2012 Global Women's Forum for the Economy & Society, in Deauville, France, which took a look at the theme, "Wanted: 360° Growth." Baxter sent a delegation of nine senior managers, directors and vice presidents to participate as Baxter Inclusion Ambassadors.
Stefano Collatina, Business Unit Director, Hospital Care, served as one of those ambassadors and found the experience to be valuable.
"I truly believe that having more women in leadership roles, as well as having diverse viewpoints within an organization, adds business value," he says. In order to have a unified strategy to make this happen, Collatina stresses, "We need to ensure that more men appreciate differing styles and perspectives, including those of colleagues who may be a different gender or background."
Sarah Byrne-Quinn, Baxter's EMEA Vice President of Business Development, participated in a panel discussion on the benefits of successfully leveraging the different problem-solving and decision-making styles of a diverse team. For her, the exposure to other thought leaders on inclusion and diversity was inspiring.
Byrne-Quinn comments, "This really resonated with me—it's how I approach diversity in my work. I think we are at the start of a journey—a journey which has value. Do we have everything right and have all the solutions? Not yet. But we are committed to the journey."
In the United States, the journey is also well underway. Donna Kopera, Vice President, Commercial Operations, U.S. BioScience at Baxter, agrees with Quinn. As co-founder of Baxter's Building Women Leaders Business Resource Group in Northern Illinois, she feels that not only is the company dedicated to providing a framework for women to be successful, but that "committed employees are enthusiastic about building capabilities and making connections."
Building Women Leaders offers career development programs, such as "Is an MBA Right for You?" and "Advancing Women's Careers: Using Negotiation Strategies," and host regular leadership chats in which executives meet with members in casual small group settings to discuss career topics. In this first year, membership went from 150 to nearly 800 members, and is branching out to different locations and regions across the company.
The growing momentum behind these initiatives comes from a strong foundation rooted in an inclusive culture and diverse workforce at the company—a culture that Etchuya has personally appreciated, whether through her work with the Work Life Balance & Inclusion Council, or in the other professional opportunities she's been given at Baxter.
"This respect for individuals and the contributions of all has really encouraged me throughout my career here," adds Etchuya.
To read more about Baxter's efforts in global inclusion and diversity, click here.