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Danone - Danone Women Leadership LAB

Added on 22-03-2013





Business challenge

European women today represent the majority of students at schools and universities and enter the workforce on an equal footing with men. Yet, after 30 years, they continue to occupy fewer positions of authority in organizations.

Danone is no exception. The company actively questions the processes, career models and prejudices that may account for this imbalance. Gender inequality means that the company is losing valuable talent, either because talented women go unrecognized and therefore are not promoted, or because they leave in search for other opportunities.


At the instigation of Danone, a group of motivated women gathered information from approximately 100 female (80%) and male (20%) managers to explore men's and women's leadership and attitudes. Results were very interesting. The participating men discovered that women do not perceive the same reality as themselves. Both men and women recognized that mixing teams and transforming attitudes can provide many benefits. 2 pilot LABS were set up (2009/2010).

A 2nd edition took place in Evian in June 2010, which included more men, as well as delegations from Asia and America. Mentoring, Networking and Training pilots demonstrated that these programs can be powerful tools for increasing self confidence, boosting women's careers, and providing a more thorough diagnosis. These results were shared with the group, in the presence of senior management. Operational managers of all functions and divisions also participated and committed to improving gender balance, which is especially important for middle management as this is where problems tend to emerge.

Danone has in the last 2 years gone from awareness to transformation to action, and have established a new LAB on Work/Life Flexibility.


  • Danone has to rethink the traditional career path model: fast track, single-function, with evaluation of potential between 28/35 years old and international mobility around 35/40 years old, which is the period when women have children. The company needs to conceive new cross-functional career paths that incorporate more flexible, personalized rhythms, and remove age criteria for evaluating individual potential.
  • Danone has to improve work/life flexibility, especially for employees, both women and men, who have children or who have elderly parents. The company must create an environment that allows men to express their personal needs.

Working with women paves the way to work on wider diversity issues, because when people become sensitive to particular differences, people become adaptable and more open to diversity in general.

Danone intends to find efficient ways to push and expand these successful experiences in mentoring and networking, to maintain the momentum.

Challenges/Lessons learned:

  • More than 100 women participated in training courses dedicated to women
  • More than 30 women in Mentoring and 8 COMEX members involved as mentors (supports documents and training sessions available)
  • Increased awareness among female employees who have learned how to survive in a male world
  • Increased awareness among male employees who have learned that not all people think as men do
  • Increased awareness among TOP management.
  • 6 networks for women underway (1 international, 1 Algerian, 1 Asian and 3 French)

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