Carolina De Nardi, chief counsel – Latin America, Zoetis Inc

Global animal products giant Zoetis’ Latin American chief counsel offers her perspective on the inclusion landscape of Brazil for women, and the efforts that she and the company are making to change the narrative

Making waves

At Zoetis, we have an internal Colleague Resource Group (CRG) called WAVES – Women Achieving Vision, Excellence and Success. I am a board member of this group, and the idea is to empower women inside the company for leadership positions and create awareness of women and our roles. We have a female CEO, a female general counsel, and I was promoted as chief counsel recently, but, generally speaking, there are still some regions, especially in Latin America, where we could do more. So, our mission is to increase representation of women at the director level and above to 40% by 2025. How will we be able to achieve this with a CRG? If we help each other, empower each other, and also with a mentoring program.

I’m a mentor inside Zoetis and outside as well. I really like to mentor women, because in general, what I see is lack of confidence about our talent. In Brazil, and in Latin America as well, since we are born, we learn that men are strong, men are capable of doing more. And then we grow up with this bias: they are better than me.

I do pro bono mentoring every Wednesday night for young women up until the age of 26. Most of them suffer from lack of confidence; because society is created in such a way that they don’t believe in themselves. That happened with me in my career – I know that, on certain occasions, when a bigger position was offered, the first reaction I had was: am I good enough for this position? But if the position was offered, of course I was.

So that’s why it is important for women to support other women, so that we create more confidence among ourselves, and we speak up. One of the things that I notice a lot is that women often don’t speak up. We don’t ask for a salary increase. We think: I’m going to leave, I’m going to be on maternity leave, I’m so afraid. No. This is your right.

I am part of a Brazil-based diversity and inclusion group at Zoetis, and one of the things that I think about is that, ‘ok, we are all diverse, but how do we include that diversity on a day-to-day basis?’

Sharing stories

For example, if we launch online training, sometimes I have the feeling that people join the training just to check the box – but they don’t think about what it really means. So, what I like is the storytelling approach.

For instance, in our D&I group, there was a person who was legally registered as a girl at birth, but did not recognize this gender, discovering himself to be a trans man. From the beginning, he raised a hand and said my name is a ‘she’, but I recognize myself as a ‘he’. Last week, I got very emotional because I saw his new birth certificate with the gender changed, and I know that this is a victory. I worked on the legal side to change all the labor paperwork, and I was so emotional, so happy, because I know the story, I know everything that he went through.

He shared his story so the entire company knows a little bit of what he faced during this journey inside Zoetis. This is what diversity and inclusion is.

I also sit on the Global Council for Diversity and Inclusion in the company, which is a group of people from different countries, and the idea is to talk about D&I inside Zoetis. We created CRGs. We are launching online training to the entire company. We created the ‘macro’ road map, and now we are starting to work on different fronts.

Of course, there are lots of things to do, but I’m very happy to work in a company that is taking diversity and inclusion very seriously and creating awareness and discussion about such important topics. It’s not just a box to check. And the thing is that if we create an environment where people feel safe, secure and comfortable enough that they can be what they want to be, people will share new ideas. At the end of the day, we will bring more value to the shareholders. This is so simple. But we never talked about this in the way that we are talking today, ten years ago.

Diversity and inclusion is in the CEO’s agenda, so each department has a goal, or something, with regard to D&I. So when you cascade down, it goes to business leaders, and it goes to legal as well.

Opening up to talent

In legal, when we talk about talent, D&I is something that we take into consideration. Most of the time, when I see an open position for a lawyer in Brazil, I see that fluent English is mandatory, fluent Spanish is mandatory and you must have a degree from a certain university. We need to change that.

Because if I have an open position, and I say we need somebody from something similar to an Ivy League university, or someone with English and Spanish, who would I be interviewing? Just white people. If I put all this as mandatory during the hiring process, I could not take into consideration a lot of good and diverse talent. So, if I have an open position, the university doesn’t matter. As long as they are competent, I don’t care. I don’t care if they have fluency in English, in Spanish, or whatever, this is something that they can learn during the journey. I need to take into consideration that people will only have money to pay for English classes after they have a salary and can invest their money on that kind of thing. If I am so restricted during the hiring process, I would not bring diverse talent into my organization.

Lawyers in skirts

I am a member of Jurídico de Saias (‘Lawyers in Skirts’). The main purpose of this group is that we help each other, we exchange ideas (considering confidentiality) between ourselves, and we support each other. It started very small and it’s bigger now. As part of that, we created a mentoring program: I am a mentor of another (what we call) ‘skirt’ – another in-house lady – and the idea is to support and help the other lawyer to grow inside her company.

We also have a live, monthly event for subscribers on Instagram, where we talk about a subject, for example, leadership or compliance. On one occasion, I interviewed another lawyer who was an expert on a particular topic.

Through Jurídico de Saias, I began to learn the concept of helping other women, and then I started to replicate this during my pro bono mentoring sessions and in my mentoring program at Zoetis. And that’s the main purpose – because if I learn something during my process, it is great if I can share those learnings with another woman.

Being an influencer

At the end of the day, an in-house lawyer is a business partner and, by being a business partner, we play an important role. I not only advise on legal aspects but also on general aspects. And legal has an important seat at the table: we have the ability to influence the leaders, to influence the organization. Everybody listens to us, we add value, and we should take advantage of that and talk about diversity and inclusion and include that in the agenda.

Being a business partner, I can advise the team to not sign a certain contract, for example, or to do certain things for the company. I can say, oh why don’t we invest this in marketing and also how is the hiring process? How many women do we have in leadership positions in the country? The beauty of being the in-house lawyer is that we can influence the entire organization.