Last May, we shared a story called “The Giraffe and the Elephant,” an allegory representing the challenges of building diverse organizations within existing structures. This month, we took Chocolate Villa to South Africa—a region of the world with actual giraffes and elephants—where we hosted 19 women from the World Food Programme for a 2.5-day workshop as part of their INSPIRE Women’s Leadership and Career Development Programme.
As is true with most organizations, women leaders in WFP face many barriers in advancing to senior leadership, including finding their way through existing, often male-dominated structures. Gathering together just outside Pretoria at the Kievits Kroon Country Estate, WFP leaders enjoyed the opportunity to build stronger relationships with their colleagues, explore gender-specific strengths of women and men, build their toolbox of emotional and social intelligence skills, and map a pathway forward to their “next”.
International staff leaders in WFP are assigned to duty stations all over the world, and generally serve in a station for about four years. Women leaders in the organization face some especially challenging circumstances, juggling their mobile careers with raising families or managing extended family commitments.
What I love about working with the women of WFP is their heartfelt dedication to making a real difference in the world. In spite of the hardships they both witness in the populations they serve, and experience in managing their own work and family priorities, WFP women are gracious, seasoned, hardy, and generous, and ready to inspire change in their own organization. Their new Director of HR, Prerana Issar, is committed to building a culture of diversity and inclusion. She recognizes that diversity has many faces in WFP, and cultural diversity adds complex layers to the mix. Diversity is one of the United Nations’ key values, but creating an environment of inclusion requires learning to recognize unconscious bias and challenging the status quo.
Ms. Issar, who joined WFP last year from Unilever, is herself a mother of two young children. She says, “We have a lot of work to do in WFP, and we cannot do it all in one day. But we must start somewhere, and I believe that if we give our women the tools of empowerment and the network of support they create with each other, we can accomplish a lot in a short amount of time.”
We are happy to welcome these beautiful women from WFP to our Chocolate Villa Community. As our circle of support grows around the world, we are building a sisterhood of authenticity, courage, and connection that will truly unleash the power of the female voice at all levels of leadership.
Next stop for WFP INSPIRE: Kenya!