Monsanto was recently named to the 2018 NAFE, National Association for Female Executives, Top Companies for Executive Women list, and to recognize this honor, we sat down with Vice President and Controller Nicole Ringenberg and member of Monsanto’s Executive Team since 2009, to hear her perspective on what it means to be a woman in leadership.
Tell us about your background and path to leadership.
I began my career at Monsanto over 32 years ago as an internal auditor in Finance. Through the years, I’ve had the opportunity to visit and work at different sites all around the world, with co-workers across functions and geographies, and in a variety of leadership roles. One of my most exciting opportunities, which was also one of my most challenging and rewarding, was the opportunity to lead our Asia-Pacific commercial business based in Singapore. In 2009, shortly after I returned from Singapore, I accepted the opportunity to serve as our company’s Controller and as a member of the Executive Team.
How have you seen gender diversity and equality in the workplace evolve over the years?
From my perspective, there has been a lot of change in three decades. During the first part of my career, I faced many challenges being a woman in the workplace. Looking back, I worked primarily with men, and whether it was engaging in small talk before or after a meeting or sharing my perspective, I spent a lot of energy working hard to participate and to fit in so that I would be heard. In addition, the challenges related to balancing family and work priorities were not discussed broadly—it was something that I managed on my own. Today, there are far more women in leadership positions and this has changed the dynamics around the table and has driven policies that support managing work-life balance challenges. These changes have been instrumental in supporting the career advancement of women. I’m encouraged by the progress that has been made, and I look forward to seeing the impact of the current efforts that are in place that support inclusion and equality in the workplace. This continued focus is critical as I believe that today’s business leaders understand that diversity in perspective fosters more ideas and better outcomes, both key to achieving business objectives.
How does it feel to work for a company that values and promotes female executives?
I am very proud to work at Monsanto and to be part of this company where diversity and inclusion is core to the culture and who we are. We have women in leadership roles across functions and around the world, and there are support mechanisms that offer development, feedback, networking, and mentoring—all of which are critical to our success. An environment of inclusion starts at the top of an organization and our advancements also speak to the fact that our male colleagues have played a key role in developing and sustaining this culture.
What can women in leadership roles do to support women on similar career paths?
We can support future leaders by paying it forward through mentoring, providing honest feedback, and sharing our stories and learnings. I’ve seen many of our women leaders at Monsanto do this, not because it’s required, but because they care. In addition, we can be role models for all leaders by demonstrating the importance of embracing inclusion. As we actively seek out diverse perspectives, we share the experience that collaboration is more exciting, our work is more rewarding and our outcomes are more successful.
What advice do you have for women just entering the workforce with the goal of reaching a leadership position someday?
The one phrase that comes to mind is: be confident in who you are. When you lead with who you are, you are going to make choices consistent with your values and your goals. This trust and confidence in yourself will open you up to other perspectives that create incredible learning and growth opportunities. You will be a better leader, you will achieve things you couldn’t imagine, and you will make a difference!