Sean Smith, Author at WeQual

Author: Sean Smith


WeQual Welcomes the Finalists of the WeQual Awards, The Americas 2022

Meet the most recent members of our WeQual Alumni: the 24 finalists of the WeQual Awards, The Americas 2022.

Each finalist has met with one of our Executive Interviewers, who will choose one winner per category, to be announced in the next month.

As Alumni, all 24 women will have access to the WeQual Global Membership, a networking platform where talented, senior women, who report into global executive committees, can connect through our forums and live events.


The 24 WeQual Finalists for The Americas 2022:

Brand & Marketing Category

Dr Frederique Covington Corbett – SVP, Chief Global Brand & Integrated Marketing Officer, for Visa

Melanie Boulden – Chief Marketing Officer North America, for The Coca-Cola Company

Ruchi Varshneya – Divisional Vice President, Global Marketing, Infectious Diseases Emerging Markets, for Abbott


Operations Category

Demaris Mills – President, Integrated DNA Technologie,s for Danaher

Melissa Seymour – Chief Quality Officer, for Biogen

Jin Chang –  Managing Director, Global Head of Metals, for CME Group


Legal Category

Courtney Camp Enloe – Senior Vice President, Deputy GC, and Chief Antitrust, EHS, L&E, Litigation, and M&A Counsel, for 3M

Rebecca B. Gregory – AVP, Commercial Litigation, for Union Pacific Railroad

Viney Chadha – Managing Director, Risk Management, Moody’s Investor Services, for Moody’s Corporation


Regulation & Innovation Category

Nancy Dreyer – Chief Scientific Officer & Senior Vice President, for IQVIA

Michele Wheeler – VP Regulatory & Political Affairs, for NextEra Energy Resources

Penny Naas – President, International Public Affairs and Sustainability, for UPS


Finance Category

Shivani Kak – Head of Investor Relations (Managing Director, Finance) for Moody’s Corporation

Alexandra Dimitrijevic – Global Head of Research and Development, for S&P Global Ratings

Charlotte Hanneman – Vice President, Enterprise Financial Planning & Analysis, for Stryker


Strategy Category

Sarah Cottle – General Manager, Research, Advisory and Specialty Solutions, for S&P Global Market Intelligence

Urmi Richardson – President EMEA, for Thermo Fisher Scientific

Juana Maria Serna – Vice President for Builders and Urbanization Solutions, for CEMEX Colombia


Technology Category

Vijaya Kaza – Chief Security Officer, Head of Engineering & Data Science for Trust & Safety, for Airbnb

Mishka Dehghan – Senior Vice President, Strategy, Product, Solutions Engineering, T-Mobile Business Group, for T-Mobile

Keri McKiernan – Global Head of Commercial & Marketing Technology, for S&P Global


People Category

Shari Slate – Chief Inclusion and Collaboration Officer, Senior Vice President Inclusive Future and Strategy, for Cisco

Monica Rodrigues – Vice President Human Resources, for Wipro Limited

Beatriz Tumoine – Global Social Impact Director, for CEMEX

WeQual Awards recognizes two Schneider Electric women leaders for their contributions to business

Two senior executives of Schneider Electric, the leader in the digital transformation of energy management and automation, are finalists for the WeQual Awards for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) 2021 in the “Business Development” and “People and Culture” categories.

WeQual’s mission is to bring equality and diversity to businesses worldwide, by identifying successful women who report into the global group executive committees of the world’s biggest companies. WeQual announced the 2021 EMEA shortlist of finalists from a wide range of sectors and companies on November 8, 2021.

Susan Uthayakumar, the President of Schneider’s Sustainability Business Division, and Tina Kao Mylon, Senior Vice President for Talent and Diversity, now join the WeQual Club, a group of 144 members whose recognition by the WeQual Awards has helped to break the glass ceiling since 2019. Monique Elliott, Schneider Electric’s Senior Vice President of Industrial Automation Global Marketing joined the WeQual Club in 2020.

Ranked the world’s most sustainable corporation by media and research company Corporate Knights earlier this year, Schneider Electric is publicly committed, as part of its 2025 sustainability goals to ensuring that women make up 50% of its new hires, 40% of frontline managers, and 30% of senior leadership. Schneider Electric’s advances towards gender equality include fair and equitable pay practices, flexible working policies, zero tolerance for harassment, and challenging stereotypes and hidden bias across the workforce.

A finalist in the Business Development category, Susan Uthayakumar, who is responsible for managing Schneider Electric’s Global Energy and Sustainability Services as well as the company’s sustainability consulting organization, drives positive impact both in business and in her community, advocating for women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and building the leaders of tomorrow.

Tina Kao Mylon, a finalist in the People and Culture category, is responsible globally for talent acquisition, talent development, leadership development, diversity, equity and inclusion and well-being at Schneider Electric. She is a strong believer in the power of organizations and individuals to drive change.

WeQual assessed Susan and Tina’s leadership and business skills, along with the two other women in their respective categories. Interviews also take place to determine the winner of their categories. WeQual will announce the winners online on 26 January, 2022.

A People-Powered ‘Inclusive Diversity’ Approach

Putri Realita, Global Diversity and Inclusion Lead at Danone, gives WeQual a fascinating and exclusive insight into the ‘Diversity Inclusive’ approach that the global consumer goods giant has implemented over the last five years.

Coming from Indonesia to the headquarters of Danone in Paris 5 years ago was a big leap for Putri, especially with the task she was given of defining and implementing the global Diversity & Inclusion strategy for the multinational giant. 

But there is no doubt she has helped the company progress rapidly in the D&I sphere from a standing start – Danone is now one of the top 10 French companies for gender equality, and ranked 26 globally, according to the gender and equality research company Equileap. To put that into context, Danone was nowhere in the ranking as recently as three years ago. 

Coming from a non-HR background, Putri found she had to learn D&I by doing, while bringing the French-based global food and drink company on what she described to me as “the most exciting and fulfilling ride of her career so far”. 

“First we needed to start with a why? Why do we have to change, why do we need to do it?” Putri, who is thriving as one of the few Asian talents at the HQ of a global ‘western’ company, told WeQual Magazine. 

Explaining her journey with Danone and D&I, she added: “This ‘why’ may differ from one company to the other. D&I needs to connect with both the business and people agenda. It needs to be seen and perceived as a business topic, and not only an HR topic. 

“We engage in a ‘top down, bottom up’ strategy and we learn how to engage the silent middle. The role of top management is key in setting the tone and, more importantly, they need to walk the talk, leading by examples of team’s diversity and setting the right inclusive mindset in their executive teams.

“D&I also needs to be authentic,” Putri explained, “through listening to the different voices in the organisation and empowering our people across all levels to co-own the D&I agenda, both at global and local level, making it relevant for their work and their functional and local specificities.” 

Putri believes in a people-powered approach and has created a bottom-up movement that engages around 400 passionate D&I champions across the 55 countries where Danone is in operation.

“We ask our champions to build local and functional roadmaps. We need to mirror the population where we do business and enhance diversity wherever we operate. We tailor our strategy to the different regions, and build local and functional roadmaps on how Danone can make a difference there with D&I.”

“For example, our global roadmap tracks our performance globally – on gender, culture, nationalities, and inclusive behaviours. While our local roadmap in the US, South Africa, UK and Brazil addresses the racial/ethnic diversity – as this is how Danone can make a difference in the society. 

“Other local roadmaps in countries like Mexico, Indonesia and the Middle East, focus on gender equality, while in France we are addressing gender balance, youth inclusion, and accessibility topics,” she added.

“It is not easy to implement D&I globally as knowledge about the concept varies in different regions. The word inclusion for example does not exist in many other languages so it’s important to create a common language internally and describe the concept with everyday behaviours that people can connect to within the company,” Putri emphasised. 

At Danone, Putri coined the phrase ‘Inclusive Diversity’, which puts inclusion before diversity. “Abbreviated, it’s ‘ID’. We want everyone to bring their ‘ID’ to work,” she explained.

Engaging the silent middle is critical. One of the keys of Putri’s approach is making what Danone does relevant to middle managers who are crucial in role modelling day-to-day inclusive behaviours.

“D&I has to be relevant to middle management and their day-to-day experience – we need to demonstrate how D&I helps them, not only as team leaders but also as business leaders, and how D&I can help them connect better with their customers and consumers.

“How they are leading and leveraging diversity in their teams is vital to being truly inclusive. It’s about leading by example. You have to seek different perspectives, listen to everyone in the room and encourage newcomers and introverts to speak up, which in the end will bring more innovative ideas to the table. It is something that is practical, and everyone understands.”

Central to Putri’s D&I strategy is a “triangulated approach” – in which people, brands and partners represent the three points. This, she tells WeQual Magazine, ensures a holistic approach that impacts not only Danone’s people, but also its consumers, and the wider community. 

“D&I always starts with people. Each and every person can bring their authentic selves, and have equal opportunity to contribute and grow within the company. Then it needs to be embedded within the brands, where it needs to embrace the diversity of the people it serves, and use their communication power to fight against stereotypes and discrimination in the society. 

“Thirdly, D&I needs to create impact, not only inside the company but also outside the company, which can only be done if we work hand in hand with our partners – suppliers, governments, NGOs, and even other companies.”

Putri is rightly proud of the huge progress Danone has made, achieving most of the D&I ambitions in their 2020 roadmap. “We have improved the representation of women and under-represented nationalities in executive positions (the top 250) to 30% in 2020 (vs 17% and 20% in 2016, respectively), as well as reaching 87% Inclusion Index based on the Annual People Survey result.

“This is surely not enough, and the journey continues,” she asserted. So Putri has now set new goals including gender parity in senior leadership positions by 2025. “We want to create a truly inclusive culture and include everyone across Danone’s supply chain – employees, consumers and community, enhancing diversity wherever Danone operates through the global and local roadmaps, and serving the evolving needs of employees with the future of work being in the centre of the strategy”. 

A lack of Asian leaders driving global agenda in so-called western companies is another pressure point. “When I was giving a speech at the Global D&I Leaders Forum in London, someone came to me and said that it is not very often we see a South East Asian face amongst the other global leaders.” Upbringing and cultural specifics are some of the key contributors to this reality.

“I’ve been through the mindset change,” the Global Diversity and Inclusion Lead for Danone tells WeQual Magazine. Educated in schools in Indonesia, Putri went to university in Australia for her undergraduate study where she quickly learned that to get on, she would have to speak up a lot in class and learn to be more forthright. “So, this is something I learned a lot in Australia. My experience there influenced me a lot in my leadership.” “But,” Putri counters, “Having an Asian background and knowing the Indonesian market has been a huge help in identifying how to bring forward D&I across the different regions for the global giant. People tell me that I bring a different approach on D&I, as it is seen as more grounded, applicable, and relevant for many. 

“I think I can combine the best of both worlds by maintaining the posture I adopt from my upbringing, which centres around humility, listening and teamwork, with those I learnt during my study and working years, which centres around speaking up, as well as having true convictions and vision for the work we do.”

Undoubtedly, the radical change in society over the last year or so has pushed many companies to address D&I at a different level than before. D&I plays a big role in engaging the employees to shape the company’s culture and therefore inclusion needs to be embedded in everything that companies do. 

Since 2018, Danone’s 100,000 employees have been invited to actively engage and to shape the future towards the Danone 2030 Goals through our ‘One Person, One Voice’ programme. They can voice their point of view on both our company agenda and the definition of the 2030 Goals roadmaps, at local and global levels. Each year, we select 26 volunteers to carry the voices of our 100,000 employees to members of the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee. Danone employees also participate in the ‘One Person, One Share’ programme where everyone gets one share in the company and is encouraged to attend shareholder meetings. “It is quite powerful to see many employees attend our shareholders meeting as owners of the company.

“D&I is a long-term game – It’s something that is taking time. Companies need to do it for real, not for PR, or responding to public pressure. They need to realise that it is not only the right thing to do, it’s also good for the people and for the business – long term,” Putri concluded.  

After regulation: Finding balance in compliance

An exclusive interview with Holly Kulka, Global Chief Risk & Compliance Officer for S&P Global Ratings

When Holly Kulka arrived at S&P Global Ratings in August 2015, the company was just beginning to grapple with the storm of regulatory requirements growing out of the subprime crisis which had come into force in June of that year.  

“When I arrived at S&P, the company knew what the new regulations said, but it was in the early stages of figuring out how to embed the changes in the structure and culture of the organization. There was a lot going on – but it was a lot of noise and confusion,” she told WeQual Magazine exclusively.

“There was all this regulation, and a new leadership in Financial Services Regulators around the world, including at the SEC. My impression was that people wanted to do the right thing, but no one was sure exactly what that was, or how to think about the question in the absence of very specific guidance.

“The industry had originally been mostly unregulated, and then suddenly highly regulated. And global regulators were being added every year.” 

As Global Head of Compliance and Risk for S&P Global Ratings, it is Holly’s job to lead the company’s globally integrated risk and compliance teams, to ensure S&P’s compliance with all relevant laws and regulations, as well as complying with internal policies and industry best practices. 

“The way I like to work is to ask the question, ‘OK, what’s the problem?’ This is the theme I’ve always used. There is an enormous amount of work to be done, but you need to be able to work towards the future. When I arrived at S&P Global, I understood we needed to align ourselves to the regulation and make it work,” Holly added. 

“In the beginning there was so much noise and change I started asking people to differentiate between harm and pain. What was preventing the business from moving forward in the way that made sense and what was merely painful? I wanted to try and fix both, but we had to prioritize.”

S&P Global is the pre-eminent leader in credit ratings. For over 160 years, S&P Global has been turning information into insights, providing essential intelligence that accelerates progress in the world, delivering data, research, credit ratings, and ESG solutions that governments, companies and individuals depend on to make decisions with conviction.

There is a salutary lesson in Holly’s experience of helping S&P Global prosper alongside a tightening of regulations. In the next few years, the tech industry – particularly companies running social media platforms – is expected to see a ramping up of regulatory controls on their core operations. 

“In the beginning there was so much noise and change I started asking people to differentiate between harm and pain. What was preventing the business from moving forward in the way that made sense and what was merely painful? I wanted to try and fix both, but we had to prioritize.”

“Where there are scandals, it is not just about a lack of regulation – and regulation should not be the only solution,” Holly said. “As a company, you should not be thinking only about what you are allowed to do. You should be thinking about what you should be doing because that’s how everyone else is going to think.  

“Most companies want to be, and do, good. Most companies want themselves to mean something, that’s where you take that theory about what you want to be – your mission statement – and you apply it.”

When a company goes through a big shock, leadership on the way out of the crisis is crucial. Holly advocates a leadership style that stresses the importance of empowering people across the whole business, not just those who answer to you.

“Most companies want to be, and do, good. Most companies want themselves to mean something, that’s where you take that theory about what you want to be – your mission statement – and you apply it.”

“It’s a lot of things. You have to have empathy, for a start. And it’s also about being able to exert influence outside of your direct chain of command,” Holly explains. “It is no good if you can only be of influence within your own team – you need to influence the rest of the business. 

“It is important to be self-deprecating too,” she added. “Admit your mistakes and ask for help. A very important part of being a good leader is to be naturally understanding and able to acknowledge your own weaknesses. 

“Ultimately it’s all about the alignment and bringing everything together. To be a good leader you have to recognise the stakeholders and bring them all together. 

She added: “You also have to like people. You have to enjoy getting to know people and working with them. A big part of what you do as a leader is delegating and relying on other people.”

“What it comes down to is: when you are a lawyer you’re not just advocating, you’re also influencing. As an in-house lawyer I was used to influencing across the whole business. To me it was a relatively easy shift.”

While Holly’s background is in law, she found it a seamless transition into the commercial aspects of the business world.

“Having had a background as a lawyer, I always ask myself, when approaching a problem, ‘Is it really a case of yes or no?’ I’ve had a number of legal careers: I’ve been a public prosecutor, a law firm partner, and I’ve also worked as an in-house lawyer. 

“What it comes down to is: when you are a lawyer you’re not just advocating, you’re also influencing. As an in-house lawyer I was used to influencing across the whole business. To me it was a relatively easy shift.”

Ultimately, Holly explains, the crucial element to all of the last five years is alignment.

“If you were to dial everything down to one word – that word would be ‘alignment’. What are you doing with the business? What does the regulation require? What do the regulators need? It’s about aligning everything. 

“When it comes to how you do that, well, it has to be specific to your business,” Holly explains. “You need to align what you are doing with what the business is going to do – dial it down to the very specifics of your business and really apply it.”

“But you need to make it your own and be accountable. You can take a text-book scenario and apply it to your company, but it’s not always going to be relevant.”

Future Proofing
– Rebeca Navarro

Rebeca Navarro, Chief Transformation Officer for Europe and Head of Procurement at  Aryzta explains that there is no better time than right now to put sustainability at the core of your business.

When we come out of this lockdown, the experts say, we will have made a lot of judgments about the companies who will have our loyalty in the future. Top of the checklist for consumers is how each company conducted themselves during the Covid Crisis.

But high up on that list, as we all look to the future, is each company’s sustainable vision. What is each company doing to lessen their carbon footprint? Are they positioning themselves as a socially responsible employer? Are they prepared to take a stand for the issues that count for our customers?    

Consumers, recent studies show, are already making a stand against companies that are not prioritising sustainable transformation. In a study published by Capgemini during the lockdown, 79% of consumers said that they are changing their purchasing preferences based on sustainability. This figure is a game-changer, particularly considering that the study found that only 36% of companies believed that their customers are prepared to make purchasing decisions based on sustainability.

Consumers, recent studies show, are already making a stand against companies that are not prioritising sustainable transformation. 


That means that almost half of the corporate world is not meeting the needs of their customers. And, with those customers making long-term decisions about who they buy from, not buying heavily into a sustainable transformation strategy just seems, well tantamount to business suicide.

“Ultimately, it is about survival,” says Rebeca Navarro, Chief Transformation Officer and Head of Procurement for Europe, at Aryzta. “My view is that – at the speed of change we have today – not trying will lead to a sure failure. I have seen how redefining purpose, and living it, unlocks value beyond the initial intention.

“To those players that resist change I would remind them of the automobile industry. They will not have to wait long to have their own version of Tesla passing them by,” she added. 

Of those companies in the above study committed to sustainability transformation, 77% say that their positive approach has already increased customer loyalty. And 63% have even reported an uptick in revenue because of their actions. So why isn’t everyone putting a sustainable transformation strategy at the heart of everything they do?

“Ultimately, it is about survival,” says Rebeca Navarro, Chief Transformation Officer and Head of Procurement for Europe, at Aryzta. “My view is that – at the speed of change we have today – not trying will lead to a sure failure…


“I would not say that, in general, companies are avoiding it,” Rebeca told the WeQual Magazine. “Some might, but many are at different stages of addressing it, with more or less success. To succeed you need to build sustainability expertise and change management skills and business knowledge. Hiring one or two sustainability experts will not do the job, they can too easily end up siloed.”

A renewed and sustained focus on sustainability was, not all that long ago, a pipe dream for society in general. It was a long way from being seen as a primary business focus of the biggest and most influential companies in the world.

“When I was at university, I studied Environmental Economics. At the time there wasn’t a lot of scope for it: it was difficult to see a pathway within business where I could use what I had learned. But I am not the kind of person who wants to delay doing something, so staying on in education to continue as a postgraduate was not appealing.

“When I first started, there was no focus on sustainability and transformation: all so-called ‘good deeds’ were focused into the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) department. Their remit was very different.

“Nowadays, companies are looking for the longer term. Of course, you still have the short-term pressures – the P&L considerations – but it is a lot different than it used to be. For a start, customers are punishing companies that are thinking too short term.”

But there are potential pitfalls, despite the general positive outlook for working towards a sustainable future, particularly since the pandemic.

One of the major issues is the lack of a standard measuring tool that is recognised across all industries.

“Whereas it is easy to measure the success of normal strategies with their impact on P&L, there is still a big gap in the ability to measure how successful a sustainable transformation strategy has been because there just isn’t the accounting in place,” Rebeca said. “We need to put together universal and simplified environmental accounting tools.”

But what does a viable strategy look like, and how do you bring the rest of the company along with you?

“You have to take Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) factors into consideration,” Rebeca explains. “To make your strategy successful, you have to bring a reviewed purpose to the forefront of the organisation.

“And it has to be self-sustaining,” she added. “By this I mean that, while it might need a catalyst, an initial high-level energetic push, after a time it will need to be totally embedded into the culture of the company and connect everyone in the organization.

“It needs to be embedded deeply enough that it automatically makes ongoing decisions obvious, and serves as an implicit guide to everyone’s everyday decision-making. It needs to be prevalent at all levels, and it also needs to be able to reconnect the company with its consumers, and to a broader society as a whole.”

But there are potential pitfalls, despite the general positive outlook for working towards a sustainable future, particularly since the pandemic.

“It can generate fear, fear to try something that does not work,” Rebeca warns. “Within our organisations, we need to do our best to turn that fear into fun.”

At a previous role at Unilever, Rebeca’s experience of taking the lead on sustainable transformation saw improvements in a number of areas. With a lot of brands, Unilever had a number of strategies in place to improve its footprint.

‘Whether it is with the acquisition of a vegetarian butcher, focusing on brands with a better end-to-end environmental footprint, or even improving the footprints of our other products, there are a number of things we can do.

“Sustainable sourcing is a big thing. Supply chains can be very big and complex. Ultimately, consumers would like to have more sustainable products but sometimes they are not in the market. While smaller start-ups can bring new ideas to the table, it is often more effective if most of the big players remain in the market and make changes or improvements.”

Rebeca believes that despite the complicated nature, companies need to plan how to keep their sustainable transformation strategy focused.

“I think, when it comes to sustainable transformation, it can seem an incredibly complicated subject when taken as a whole. It is a lot more straightforward to drive that change if you break it down with your company.

“Companies have taken some of the older responsibilities of governments. Or at the very least they are taking on part of those responsibilities in collaboration with the state. But big companies are also sharing some of these new responsibilities with each other – and also with their suppliers, and their customers.

“Ultimately, to get to where your company wants to be, you need to evaluate where you are, set goals, and give yourself an ambitious but reasonable transition period to get there. And what works best is a mix of organic change and the right acquisitions.

“And you can get closer to your goal much quicker with M&A,” she added.

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