Claudia González Montt, general counsel and external affairs, SMU S.A.

González Montt runs a 22-person legal and corporate affairs team at one of Chile’s top food retailers. She shares the company’s approach to D&I and her own work throughout her career to further inclusion.

Because I am a woman, it’s very important to me that, in an organization, women have equal treatment and equal opportunities to anyone else. Diversity and inclusion means being recognized for my talent, ability, my individual characteristics and it’s important that, based on those, I can compete and develop with equal opportunity.

The importance of inclusion

But having a diverse team in an organization is not enough to get all the benefits that diversity brings. There must be an inclusive and open environment that guarantees this equal treatment and opportunity. I heard in a training session that diversity is when they invite you to the party, but inclusion is when they invite you to dance. If you don’t work on inclusion, you won’t have the environment that you need to develop your career as a woman or as a minority. You need a safe place where you can express your ideas, your different viewpoint. In my experience at different companies, women can help to develop the business because we have different perspectives than men.

For many years, I have participated in D&I initiatives, for example leading D&I committees, developing minority support programs, developing diversity management models, and participating in mentoring and sponsorship programs.

Work-life balance

I love mentoring, especially when the mentee is a woman starting out in her working life, because you can share your experience, and help other women to open up the workplace and develop their professional career; give some advice about how to balance personal life and work. I’m married, I have children and for me this part is very important, because I need to have a very good personal life in order to give a very good work performance. I need this balance in my life. Through mentoring, I can give young women tips or advice to help to balance personal life and work and about the importance of co-responsibility in caring for children.

That’s a big challenge because, traditionally in Chile, men work and women stay at home. It’s part of our culture. Unfortunately, the pandemic has impacted women more than men in terms of employment, and also due to the increase in childcare. Co-responsibility is a new concept for us and we need to work on that, to involve more men in work at home.

Only 14% of board members of IPSA companies (the top 30 companies with the largest stock market presence in Chile) are women. However, there has been an advance because, ten years ago, this precedent was close to 4%. In the legal field, things are not very different. Although today there are more women lawyers working at law firms, at the partner or general counsel level, there are very few. We are proud that SMU is one of the two IPSA companies in the country led by women. Our chair and vice president of the board are women, and we have three female board members.


In our company, D&I is a priority. It’s included in the company strategy plan, it’s one of our pillars, and the company has a management model based on our code of ethics. We have a cultural code called ‘CERCA’, which means Closeness, Excellence, Respect, Collaboration and Agility. Our culture is very important, because it tells us how we do business, and through actions and activity in the company, we seek to influence employees, their family, our clients, suppliers and the community. We have different programs in the company to support different groups, for example women and people with disabilities.

The legal team

The legal team promotes and lives the values of the company in terms of diversity and inclusion. I think we are an example for other teams. 59% of the legal team and 67% of the legal top management are women. My team has actively supported the creation of policies, procedures, and action plans related to D&I, protection of human rights and sustainability for the whole company. We have supported this process with the people team and have prepared training in these kinds of matters. The company has many activities, and my team supports all of them in their creation and organization, not only as participants.

The team has participated in a sustainability volunteers’ program. We have promoted female talent by giving them visibility, for example three women from our team represent the company in trade associations.

During 2020 and 2021, the team participated in a development program implemented for the first time in the company, which includes mentoring and sponsorship activity. We had the opportunity to put forward two women and one man as mentees, and I mentored two women.

I think as an in-house legal team we can contribute a lot. For example, we have experience of working with diverse teams from other areas, we have colleagues not only of different genders or groups, but also from different professions. This allows better collaborative work and knowledge exchange, and we share all that experience and good practice with everyone and, of course, with our external lawyers. I think we can help our outside counsel to promote these matters.

We are a client of many law firms and we contribute by giving visibility to talented women lawyers and in hiring law firms led by women. For example, in the last year we hired a law firm led by female partners for an important company matter, and we had an excellent result and developed an excellent relationship with them.

It’s very important for me, for my team, and for the company, that those who work for us share our special culture. When we hire a new law firm, as a woman, I always like to know how many female partners or minority group members the law firm has, and I share with them the importance of having women in the team.

In my opinion, in-house life is more diverse than private practice, because we are part of the company and we have relationships with other areas, other professions. SMU has many initiatives related to flexible work, different schedules to help everyone, not only women, and different thinking in everyone to try to have the same diversity in the company as in the society. My company is a retail company, we serve clients in society, and we need to have more diversity in our teams to better serve our clients.