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MEDIA blogs from previous years

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8 March 2018

Recognising inspiring women on International Women’s Day

Recognising inspiring women on International Women’s Day

A blog from our CEO, Dr Mark Carr

As women and men support and celebrate International Women’s Day today, we too at AB Sugar wanted to recognise inspiring women from across our group of businesses. With operations in 10 countries on three continents, people across our diverse supply chain are truly at the heart of our business.  With roles from agriculture, operations and engineering, through to customer focused teams and support functions; it’s all about empowering our people to bring value and diversity to our workforce and supply chain partners.

Across our businesses, having an inclusive approach to developing a diverse pipeline of talent is crucial, and is a challenge that professionally and personally resonates with me. This is why I volunteered to lead the ABF Gender Diversity Task Force when it was established in 2011. Just one example of its objectives was to ensure that women across the ABF workforce receive the individual development support they need, such as training and two-way mentoring programmes to support career development and progression. Fast-forward seven years and the task force, now under the stewardship of Martin Brewis, MD at Silver Spoon, has created real momentum behind this, with progress more broadly in terms of gender diversity across not only the AB Sugar Group, but the wider ABF Group too.

When looking more closely at the progress within AB Sugar Group, we are on a journey and there is still a way to go, however I’m pleased to see we are moving in the right direction. For example, from 2014-17, the percentage of senior management who are women rose from 15% to 23%[1].

Inspiring the next generation of women in advanced manufacturing and beyond

It’s important that we are able to transform some of the preconceptions that the public, and more importantly young women have about a career in manufacturing and commodity sectors such as sugar. We must play a role in breaking down stereotypes of what is expected and outdated views; that’s why at AB Sugar our commitment to supporting and empowering employees is integral within our sustainability framework of ‘Global Mind, Local Champions’ - our thriving and healthy communities pillar.

Within our businesses, we have many great initiatives to support female development and gender diversity.  One example is in Spain, where we work with local schools and universities to showcase the breadth of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture and Maths) employment opportunities within our business, inviting students into our factories to gain an understanding of what we do. Our aim with this is being able to attract and increase the percentage of females across our workforce beyond an entry level as graduates or apprentices, whilst bringing opportunities to those who wish to progress a career within a STEAM discipline and career path that takes them onto senior management positions.

Similarly in the UK, we are members of the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) campaign, inspiring girls and women to build careers using STEM subjects and many of our employees visit local schools and colleges to speak to students. We are also exploring setting up a networking group for women to share experiences, guidance and support.

I’m extremely proud of what we’ve achieved so far and the journey we are taking, but it is our people who can share with you their career journey experiences. So, we’ve collated a series of case studies from women across our supply chain that may inspire you and others to think about working in different industries, roles or countries – or indeed a business like ours.  Continue reading to find out more about them.

Our case studies

Renata Czaplinska, Senior Process Technologist, AB Sugar

Renata grew up in Poland and has worked across the AB Sugar Group for 18 years. During this time she has worked in Poland, China, the UK, Africa and Spain. She has embraced the diverse variety of opportunities afforded to her over her time with the business and feels like she’s living the engineer’s dream.

To find out more about Renata, please click here.

Bella Zhao, Agriculture Manager, AB Sugar China

Bella joined AB Sugar China in 2010 as a trainee and has worked within the agriculture department for the past eight years. She spent six months in the UK as part of an International Experience Programme (IEP) in 2014, before taking key learnings back to China to embed into the business.

To find out more about Bella, please click here.

Laura Diego, Factory Manager, Azucarera

Laura started her career at Azucarera more than 15 years ago, joining after university. Following a number of roles within the research and development centre, she has recently become the Group’s first female factory manager – a milestone she feels proud to have achieved. She is now using the opportunity to encourage female colleagues to think differently about the range of roles possible within our business.

To find out more about Laura, please click here.

Kathryn Grant, Process Manager, British Sugar

Kathryn will be celebrating her 10 year anniversary at British Sugar later this year after joining as a graduate straight out of university. She is a passionate ambassador for women in STEAM careers and continues to inspire others through her work with WISE.

To find out more about Kathryn, please click here.

Rachel Leach, European Business Director, Germains Seed Technology

Rachel has spent the majority of the past 11 years working in various supply chain and procurement roles at ABF businesses before making the leap to take on the role of EU Business Director at Germains. She has found being part of an international food, ingredients and retail group such as ABF that is able to move people across divisions fantastic and is now also involved in mentoring female colleagues; an opportunity which she really values.

To find out more about Rachel, please click here.

Rebecca Katowa, Managing Director, Zambia Sugar (part of Illovo Sugar Africa)

Rebecca has been Managing Director (MD) of Zambia Sugar for three years, becoming the company’s first female MD. She joined the company over 20 years ago as Marketing Services Manager, following a series of roles in the manufacturing and FMCG sectors. Alongside her responsibilities as an MD, she spends time sharing guidance and advice with colleagues, helping them to forge out their careers and strive to be the best they can be.

To find out more about Rebecca, please click here.

Zoe Hanslip, Commercial Director, Vivergo Fuels

Zoe joined Vivergo Fuels in 2014 following a decade at the Bank of England. She is a trained accountant and has more than 15 years’ experience in the financial services sector. Working at Vivergo Fuels has opened up new career and learning opportunities for Zoe while allowing her to continue drawing upon her financial skill set.

To find out more about Zoe, please click here


[1] Comparison from 2014 Annual Report and 2017 Annual Report

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