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Joint interview with Cathy Desquesses and Rohini Anand

SheWorks Job Shadowing program launched at the IWD on 8 March 2019

Joint interview with Cathy Desquesses and Rohini Anand


Rohini Anand, Senior Vice President Corporate Responsibility and Global Chief Diversity Officer

Cathy Desquesses, Chief People Officer



As the Chief People Officer of Sodexo, you are also a champion of diversity and employee engagement, to name a few. Could you please tell us more about your personal commitment to such topics?

CD - We probably spend more time at work with our colleagues than we do with our friends and family. Being happy at work, having good relationships with colleagues and feeling confident to be ourselves allows us to perform at our best. It’s a no-brainer; companies with high employee engagement rates outperform those companies with low engagement. Feeling able to bring our whole selves to work – irrespective of our differences – is an essential element of employee engagement. Of course, gender diversity is important and a key focus area for Sodexo, but so too is cultural diversity, inter-generational working, respect for gender identity and embracing people’s differences; it enriches our collective intelligence and enhances the quality of services we bring to clients and consumers. It makes good business sense and I’m wholly committed to driving improvements at Sodexo to enhance our business performance.

For IWD, what would you say to an employee to be an ambassador and support SheWorks Job Shadowing program? Will you personally commit to?

CD - We are using International Women’s Day as an opportunity to promote job shadowing at Sodexo, whereby we will match Sodexo volunteers with women in our local communities, giving them an opportunity to learn new skills and consider a career in our industry. This is a great opportunity for Sodexo, as a large global employer, to demonstrate our commitment to the social development of the communities in which we operate; but it’s also a great opportunity for you. To be able to offer support, advice, guidance, hope and training to women in our communities – especially those in vulnerable situations – is not only very humbling;it’s something that goes right to the very heart of Sodexo’s mission and values. I will personally be taking part and I urge you to volunteer too and use this as an opportunity to support women in your local community.

RA - I would encourage them to step up to be ambassadors because SheWorks benefits the women in the community, Sodexo and the ambassador. At Sodexo we have seen the benefit of gender balance and the connection to our business performance. This is an opportunity for us to brand ourselves as a quality of life employer with an inclusive culture where women can belong. Given the competition for talent, this is a great way to expose the community to careers at Sodexo.

This is also going to be an opportunity to give back to our broader communities – where we live and work – to extend opportunities to women who want to build a better life or access new career paths. In addition, I have found that I always learn a great deal about myself and the world around me when I am in a mentoring role. I expect the employees who participate as host ambassadors will walk away with new insights into their career and their community. I plan to be a SheWorks Ambassador myself and look forward to the experience of being shadowed!

To what extent does this program and more broadly Sodexo contribute to an inclusive growth for women in the communities?

CD - We have a strategic priority to improve gender balance at Sodexo. This program goes some way to demonstrate that commitment and is a great step towards giving women in our local communities an insight into what it might be like to work for a company like Sodexo. A better gender balance across all parts of our business will help us to perform better; there are no two ways about that. Of course, this program alone is not going to help us make the shift we need, but it does add further weight to how serious we are about inclusion in the workplace and supporting the social and economic progress of the communities in which we operate. There is no doubt about our commitment to inclusion – we have many awards to prove we’re thought leaders in this space – and programs like SheWorks can only enhance our purpose.

Could you please give an example as a corporate citizen?

RA - SheWorks will help women in our communities see new possibilities for themselves. Sodexo teams in different countries will be working with different populations. These may include women who want to enter fields where they are traditionally under-represented like facilities management, women who are refugees or survivors of violence and seeking independence through economic opportunity, women with disabilities that want to learn about their options and more. Collectively we will impact the quality of lives in our communities. Let me tell you what we have done in Peru: we developed a community-based training program to strengthen remote mining communities and expand opportunities for women. We have initiatives in six regions, with more than 10 training centers where people can learn hospitality and maintenance skills from our Sodexo teams. We hire some of the graduates ourselves, others join our supply chain and some, start their own businesses and then return to hire other graduates from our training center. At least 1,500 community members have benefitted from this program and 400 women have been hired by Sodexo.

How could SheWorks job shadowing be part of future of work, as a new way of reconsidering work and giving the chance to everybody to be included in an inclusive growth?

CD - The future of work is a huge topic for us; understanding how we can resource the business to meet the future needs of clients and consumers. We are very lucky at Sodexo in that we have many loyal employees who stay with us for a long time. However, as client and consumer needs continue to change, our services evolve with new innovations, and our ways of working shift with developments in digital technology, our employee profile will need to adapt. SheWorks is a great opportunity to support women in our local communities, but it’s also an opportunity for us to gather insight from a new talent pool and identify potential candidates to fulfil future roles at Sodexo.

RA - The future of work is a vast and exciting topic for us. Our communities around us are growing more diverse every day. That’s a fact. Its then up to us to learn how to leverage a more inclusive economy. SheWorks will help us become more connected to our communities, but also help us access new talent so we become a more inclusive employer and will bring new perspectives that allow us to serve a diverse customer base even better as a service provider.

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