Kenneth Charles understands how the implementation of diversity initiatives can change lives. As the vice president of Diversity and Inclusion at General Mills, Charles makes sure that the company continues to hire the best and brightest minds in the nation. He recently shared his thoughts on working towards an MBA and how diversity programs can help to even the playing field in corporate America.

Would a diversity professional benefit from a MBA? 

Absolutely! But it has to be part of a larger career plan. Before taking on the time and expense of pursuing an MBA or any advanced degree, professionals should [do] thorough soul searching and research on why and what they hope to achieve as a result. We do a significant amount of MBA hiring and truly value the expertise that students gain in a top-tier program. We have great partners like Management Leadership for Tomorrow (www.ml4t.org) and the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management (www.cgsm.org) that not only can assist with the research but can also provide fellowships and career assistance.

A Mercer survey revealed that organizations worldwide lack a strategy for developing women leaders. What are your thoughts on this?

General Mills is proud to be a career employer. We hire the very best and invest heavily in developing them into our future leaders. We fully recognize that the challenges of women’s advancement, particularly outside the U.S., are daunting. We’ve been at this for a while and as a result we’ve done a tremendous job in recruiting, retaining and advancing women. Our representation at the leadership levels are exceptional and we’ve been fortunate to be recognized by Working Mother, the National Association of Female Executives and Catalyst for our track record of success. It requires a thoughtful strategy, executive support, mentoring programs and our women’s network.

Does your company offer flexible scheduling? If so, has it helped retain more women? 

We offer a variety of flexible work arrangements for all of our employees. Flex is not just a women’s issue. We recognize that we’re in a 24/7 global, virtual environment. Work flexibility allows our people to work when and where necessary to accomplish their objectives. We also appreciate that a full offering of flex benefits allows us to attract and retain the talent we need to win in the future.

Do you have a mentor or advisory board? If so, how long have you had this guidance?  

I’m fortunate to have participated in INROADS, a national career development organization for talented minority students. INROADS provided me with mentors, role models and peers who have inspired and guided me my entire career.

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