ASA 009: How to build a global women’s network that drives inclusion

Monika Chutnik
How to build a global women’s network that drives inclusion

Talking about inclusive organization we pay special attention to employee resource groups and to other groups representing the underrepresented ones. This time, I had a great speaker with me, Maja Paradecka from Kemira, who told us about how to build a global women’s network that drives inclusion. We will be able to discover more about how you can create such a network, make it global and make it grow. How to make it lively, vivid and impactful.


In this episode you will learn:

  • Why to talk about the women’s network
  • Story of Women’s Network in Kemira
  • How to start and develop a women’s network
  • How to make a women’s network global
  • Tips and tricks for other organizations


Three things which I’m taking from this conversation:

  1. Even within the employee resource group, in this case women’s club, pick for diversity and identify ambassadors for impact.
  2. Watch others for Benchmark – there is a lot of learning already done.
  3. Make your own by experimenting. Build on your culture. Make it sustainable.


When you listen to this conversation, please think about who else might be happy to know what we are talking about and share with this person later on. I really care to be reaching the right people with my content, so thank you very much for this in advance.

I wish you fun and discovery!


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If you need to educate leaders in how to create psychological safety in your remote teams, or if you would like to increase  inclusive leadership practices, or resilience of your employees – please contact us at ETTA


Additional materials:

  • ASA 006: How to craft a DEI strategy that makes sense
  • ASA 003: Psychological Safety in a Virtual Team – 4 Steps to Mastery



Why to talk about the women’s network? 

I think that would be good to start from the general idea of diversity, equity and inclusion, which is one of the greatest contributors of organizations and of the success of companies. As Kemira we are currently working on supporting D&I in our company. Resource groups were one of the pillars of D&I stategy. One of the first networks in our company was KemPride, which is LGBTQ+ Resource Group. And then women’s network was established. These two networks are pushing some ideas, changing some perceptions. They are also gathering teams together. Thanks to them we are developing many interesting topics related to diversity and inclusion.


What is Kemira?

Kemira is a chemical company. We are producing chemistry for two main segments for industry of water. It’s a manufacturing company with headquarter in Finland. Having production sites all over the world already pushes us towards diversity. Because we are different not only from the perspective of the competences, but also from the perspective of cultures. Kemira is a special company, because having Finish roots (or Nordic roots), gives us very stable values and approach to respect. And makes people heard in the organization. Continuous listening to people helps us to hear their voice, to change something in the organization.


Addressing the topic of DEI

In fact, it was not named in the past. But for many years, we were feeling that diversity of regions we operate in and people we are collaborating with was already provoking many actions around diversity. For the past few years, we have started working on what diversity is for us. Our D&I statement says we are committed to further developing our diverse and inclusive workplace. We agreed to achieve the top 10% in the industry in terms of diversity and inclusion by 2025.

Now we are taking actions to be closer to that index and to be sure that we are doing a right thing in terms of diversity and inclusion. We are continuously listening to our people regarding the four areas:

  • authenticity.
  • belonging,
  • inclusive leaders,
  • growth.


Women’s network in Kemira

For couple of months I”ve been working in talent development team. With my two colleagues we are focused on different processes in the organization.

One of my topic is the women’s network. I felt really privileged to take it over and to start facilitating the women’s team. This resource network was created to provide a space for our colleagues for networking, mentoring and knowledge sharing.


The beginning of the women’s network

Kemira is a very good employer. Within that safe environment, we created a group of around 20 ladies. We started from workshops and brainstorming to answer some questions. What is the role of women in Kemira? Where do we see our strengths? Where do we see challenges which we face in daily life, daily operations?

The team was already very diverse. There were ladies from different regions – Asia, North & South America, EMEA regions. From different countries in Europe such as Germany, France, Netherlands, Poland, and so on. So when we started having these first workshops, we noticed how many things we have in common. Despite the fact that we are located in different regions, have different functions in the organization, different roles.

We discovered that we could do more to support each other. And that we don’t want to be exclusive. We wanted to be inclusive. So we decided to engage our male colleagues.

Women’s network growth

We started last year in March. Now we have around 100 ladies in the resource group. We needed 1 year to work out what we want to do, what is our roadmap, who is in the core team. Also to make group’s structures. And then we included our ambassadors. They were chosen by recommendations of the colleagues from the network.

After this year, I can see how much we have come together, how many good practices we have developed, and that we already have interesting items on our roadmap to complete.


How to find first women to join the network? 

At the very beginning Kemira started from creating a solid base. And instead of making an open call for anybody interested, an organization or the person who initiated the whole group, decided to contact some key persons in various geographies, in various functions, in various positions on various levels, which immediately created this diversity of the group itself. But, also, the persons who were selected to be invited to the club of the first 20 were also the ones not by coincidence, really ones who could take influence, the ones who could spread the news in their organization. So it was like finding the right person to become a seed for the next step.

In some cases, companies try to just make an open call for anybody to join, and it’s very proper to do so as well. And at the same time, you might be lacking some diversity depending on where the communication gets to. Also establishing the core of the direction in a group of 100 is a different process than in a group of 20. It helps to make the difficult choices of what you want to focus on in the first steps, in the first quarters, in the 1st years, of the women’s network.

I really appreciate the role of the women’s network in building the organizational culture because culture is something that’s connecting people in the same company across geographies, across functions, across levels. – Monika Chutnik


Learning as an added value

I’m hearing so much learning in here. So this is really creating a learning organization where the learning happens not by somebody telling you “you’ll have to learn now”. But by simply people seeing the opportunity to exchange and learn, That’s an amazing additional outcome. Plus what you said about understanding different geographies, different businesses, different realities. That really creates a strategic thinking, which might be opposed to the silos thinking, that is such an issue and such a challenge in businesses nowadays. And it has become an even bigger challenge in the virtual collaboration and virtual reality. So that tells me about so many advantages and so much added value created by the women’s network.


Skills to manage the group 

The period of the brainstorming, until we created the roadmap, was very challenging. Because you have a lot of contributors. Everyone sees things a bit differently. We needed a lot of attention but also regular meetings. So you need to be stubborn and really dedicated to go through that. Because you are pushing, you are organizer, you have to finalize it. You need to be persistent. You need to know how to manage the project. Have a bit of this facilitation, because you are just a tool. You are supporting, giving the space and organizing. And then you have to be attentive. But that’s why we also have the core team.


Tips and tricks for other organizations

You have to have a good start. So establish a good working team. A team of women or any other employees, who really want to make a change. And to give them trust and space be heard. So first, you need to have a group of people.

Then it would be great to make some structure. The team probably will grow so you need to have a core team and facilitators. You should have some rules. Maybe the core team will be rotating every year. Maybe facilitators will be also evolving and will be changed.

After that you can focus on elements that are important for the network. And on communication in the company. Managers need to know about the group. And new members will join.

Now you just need to be persistent and go ahead. Facilitator should organize regular meetings. From time to time one general meeting where everyone is included, can share progress and discuss. The best if that happens in different time zones. On those regular meetings, we also have something like inspiration. Sometimes it’s a guest, sometimes internal inspiration. So in our case during meeting we are learning and we also sharing what we did during the month.

I would also advise to be very attentive to new colleagues. They cannot just jump into the topic and be left alone. They need to know what is happening.


What’s your way forward?

First of all, we will not stop with the items which we have now. For sure, we will monitor them, summarize and think what will be the next year about. We have 100 people. So if this would be a critical amount, then why not to even split it into the regions? But my only concern would be that we would lose this international touch. We have different perspectives, sometimes different ideas or approaches to the topic.

The core team will be rotating. A facilitator of the network also should be changed.

Our core team is going to meet with other resource group. We already had some online workshop with LGBTQ+ team but we want to meet face to face and discuss what topics we have in common. Because, obviously, we may have different targets, different goals, but at some point, we have something in common as resource groups.


Personal magnet in women’s network

I’m a very social person and I love being needed and included. It’s a great inspiration when I meet people who probably I would have never met in my professional life in Kemira. I also try to learn as much as possible. Because I see different perspectives. It’s also breaking my internal barriers. Even if I seem to be very open, sometimes I’m afraid to take part in something. Sometimes it’s so challenging to step out. I have to push myself a bit into the situation which I’m not sure.

By having networking I’m also building myself personally, and professionally. So now I know to whom write about some topic, who could help me. And it makes me feel so good that I have these networks. I did some good job around that. And it’s my power to go ahead. Because out of my daily topics, this is something like a cherry on the cake. So fingers crossed, Monica, on how it goes.

I will not stop because I already said to myself: Maja, It’s needed for those ladies, but also for you to have this passion inside.


Thank you!


Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

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