Early on, a leader told me that this would be the “hardest work you ever do but the most important work you will do.” Truth!

When I first started working in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, I had much to learn. I understood, personally, the challenges and importance of helping to create spaces where people can be authentic. I appreciated the powerful shifts that can happen when companies see the benefit that a more diverse mix of backgrounds, perspectives and ideas can bring. I spent the first-year listening, wanting to make sure that any suggestions or steps I championed weren’t flavored, unintentionally, with my own biases.

In our work at Ingredion, the commitment to DEI has taken on a level of intentionality that is hard to overlook. Talking about DEI is important because our words carry weight. Accountability matters, which is why the proof is in what we do. We understand that DEI can’t be tangential to our purpose, we bring the potential of people, nature and technology together to make life better. DEI infuses all of our work: from how we help employees grow to helping customers succeed to how we articulate and actuate sustainable practices to the time we spend helping communities feel supported.

One example of this is through our diverse partnerships, like the one we share with The Hatchery. One of our colleagues from the Ingredion Idea Labs, Chef Nelson Serrano-Bahri, works tirelessly with entrepreneurs as they put in the hard work to learn the food business.

“Ingredion has been a tremendous ally and supporter of our mission to drive economic development and job creation on Chicago’s West Side,” shared Dani Zuchovicki, membership and community manager for The Hatchery Chicago. “Chef Nelson meets regularly with a diverse group of entrepreneurs such as Woman Owned, BIPOC, and West Side residents. We are so honored to have Chef Nelson and Ingredion supporting our efforts in uplifting our mission and West Side neighborhoods.”

We know that our company is stronger through the efforts of our Business Resource Groups (BRGs), focused on helping employees get involved in the changes they want to see, while growing professionally and personally. And our connection with entities like IFT allows us to help facilitate change in our industry. We’ve shared case studies and best practices, making sure that everyone understands how DEI is intricately connected to all aspects of our business.

“Because of these efforts on our podcast, in webinars and on stage at our annual event, IFT members have a greater understanding, and perhaps some inspiration, as a result of learning from Ingredion‘s experience in structuring their Business Resource Groups, inclusive employee benefits, and creating a culture that fosters community and drives employee engagement,” said Christie Tarantino-Dean, CEO, Institute of Food Technologists (IFT).

Along the way there are many proud moments and events, like hosting Inclusion Weeks globally so that our colleagues feel connected, valued and empowered to do their best work. The inspiration comes when you have employees tell you, “I joined this company because of your DEI work,” or, “I can voice my opinions, share ideas, and my manager supports me,” or a manager is comfortable enough to ask, “can you help me understand…fill in the blank.”

I know more now. I’m wiser and I understand that true change is an evolution. Some things take more time than others and not everyone will want to be on this path, but I’m always there to lean in, listen, and demonstrate what inclusion looks like. I’ve reached a place now where I’ve mentored, coached, and watched BRG leaders grow and people who’ve gone on to become DEI leaders at other organizations. That fills me with pride.

Touching lives and seeing engagement scores rise because leaders understand the value of a culture where people truly feel like they belong and that their ideas and effort count. That’s when you know that all the discussions, the listening, the planning, the doing and the consistent work to embrace change means you’ve found a recipe you want to revisit. It won’t be exactly the same each time – but the main ingredients will always be there.

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