Wendy Davidson has almost 25 years of experience as an executive in the food and beverage industry, and she successfully balances her professional responsibilities as president of the Kellogg Company with volunteer work and her role as a mother of two. She is a member of the company’s Global Leadership Team, the Kellogg North America Leadership Team, the Global Snacks and Global Breakfast Operating Councils, the Women of Kellogg network and serves as executive sponsor for the Global Talent Management Advisory Team. SmartBrief interviewed Davidson about how she defines work-life balance and what advice she has for women who want to become leaders in the industry.
What advice do you have for women who want to become leaders in the industry?
I’ve been very fortunate in my career to have a network of industry colleagues who have provided invaluable coaching and advice as I explored opportunities to stretch and grow. They’ve given their time to share their experiences and insights to help me as I transitioned into new roles both personally (as a mom!) and professionally.
For women aspiring to play a larger leadership role in the industry, my advice is to seize opportunities when they present themselves, build authentic connections and learn something new every day. Don’t be afraid to take risks. With every new opportunity comes great learning which will build your skills and experiences as you move forward in your career. Equally important, take every opportunity to give back to others as an advocate, mentor and coach. Just as others have supported me in my growth, I have a responsibility to provide the same for the future of our industry.
I’m a firm believer it is important to be yourself and be authentic. Whether you are at a customer meeting or an industry event, embrace each learning and networking opportunity that comes your way. When you make connections your world gets bigger, and your perspective gets broader. You build friendships, find mentors, collaborate with customers and brainstorm with colleagues.
How did you balance the responsibilities of your career with volunteering and raising a family? What is your definition of work-life balance?
Over the years, people have often asked me that question and I don’t believe there is right answer. I think it’s unique to the individual and achieving balance is something you have to focus on every day. What balance looks like for me on one day may not be the same the next.
I am very fortunate to have a fantastic husband and two beautiful children who, as my “home team”, have been very supportive of my career. We work to make sure that we prioritize our time with a focus on enjoying the journey together.
For example, when I joined Kellogg and we were planning to move to Chicago from Baltimore, I knew I would be commuting for a long period of time, so I asked the kids about activities or events that were most important to them that I attend. While I knew I wouldn’t be able to be at everything, we agreed that I would do everything possible to move my schedule to be present at the things that were most important to them. There are many nights when I leave work early to attend a school function or sporting event, and then power up the laptop later in the evening. Those aren’t the hours I expect my team to work, but those are the things that work for me and my family. For me, it’s all about communication with those closest to me to ensure clear expectations and managing the give-and-take on a daily, almost hourly basis.
Kellogg was named one of NAFE‘s Top 50 Companies for Female Executives again this year. What does Kellogg do to help women succeed in the industry?
Kellogg strongly believes in investing in talent development, building a pipeline of future leaders and fostering a diverse and inclusive environment. Our internal employee resource groups Women of Kellogg and Women in Supply Chain continue to drive positive change in the organization through professional development and by fostering stronger engagement across the business. This helps women build on their leadership skills, drive organizational excellence and create strategic connections with peers across the industry. We are also a corporate sponsor of the Women’s Foodservice Forum, where I am currently chair-elect and a member of the Executive Committee. WFF offers resources for individuals to build their skills, expand their knowledge and make meaningful strategic connections to reach their full potential and accelerate their career growth.
We encourage our employees to leverage all of the resources available to them to help enhance their skills as they develop and grow within the company.
You have held leadership positions in the industry for almost 25 years. How has the industry changed since you began your career?
I think one of the greatest changes I’ve seen is how consumer preferences have evolved. The food industry continues to serve as the backdrop for some of the most memorable experiences for individuals and families. Whether eating meals in the home, at restaurants, or on the go, consumers are demanding more convenience and greater variety. Over the last 25 years, I’ve watched the adoption of niche foods make their way into the mainstream, with global foods and flavors becoming available locally more than ever before.
In the workplace, we have seen a greater emphasis on diversity at all levels with more women being elevated into leadership positions across the industry. Companies, like Kellogg, are implementing workplace initiatives and employee resource groups to help increase employee development and engagement.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the changes in technology. It has enabled us to become better connected to the consumer and allowed us to evolve with them over the years. It’s an exciting time and I am looking forward to seeing where the industry will be in the next 25 years.
If you enjoyed this article, join SmartBrief’s email list for more stories about the food and beverage industry. We offer 14 newsletters covering the industry from restaurants to food manufacturing.