First in a series: WIA long-time supporters weigh in on Summit 10th anniversary

By Michelle Pelletier Marshall, Women in Agribusiness Media (May 4, 2021)


The Women in Agribusiness Summit is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year with the September 21-23 event in Minneapolis. To highlight this momentous occasion, we asked a few of our long-time sponsors/supporters to weigh in on their WIA experience. (You can add your WIA memory to our list as well by filling out this brief form.)

For the first part of this series, WIA Today spoke to Leslie Coleman, VP of equity, diversity, and inclusion, from Nutrien, a leading provider of agricultural products, services, and solutions with locations across North America, South America, Australia, and Europe, and its headquarters in Saskatoon, Canada. The company, which has been a supporter of the Women in Agribusiness Summit since its inception in 2012, is steadfast in its mission to grow the world from the ground up with safety and integrity as its core values.


Promoting equity, diversity, and inclusive (EDI) growth across the value chain enhances Nutrien’s organizational strength, reflects the diversity of its stakeholders and creates more just communities. Nutrien is committed to providing all employees with a respectful and inclusive workplace. As part of this effort, they have developed a comprehensive strategy founded in leadership accountability and internal and external action plans, processes, and strategies. Nutrien also has publicly stated their goals to increase the representation of women at senior director and higher levels to 30 percent, and to increase their new hire rate to 35 percent, specific to minority talent.


Nutrien has approximately 25,000 employees worldwide, is the largest producer of potash (by capacity), and one of the world’s largest producers of nitrogen and phosphate. It also operates a leading agriculture retail network that services over 500,000 growers worldwide. As such, Nutrien plays a critical role in feeding the future by helping growers increase their food production in a sustainable manner.


1. Can you please tell us how Nutrien initially got involved with the Summit?


We have our CEO at that time to thank. In 2012, someone from Women in Agribusiness sent a request to the Agrium Inc. (which is now Nutrien) CEO, Mike Wilson. Mike had always been a strong advocate for women in the organization, having supported the development of the Agrium Women’s Leadership Group (AWLG). When the request came across his desk, he sent it to one of the leads for the AWLG with his own note: “What do you think? Should we get involved?” It was rare for Mike to forward information on, so it seemed only logical to say, “yes this is a great idea!”



2. How has your participation grown and/or changed over the years?


We started small, with the sponsorship of a student, to ensure that it made sense for our business. We sent four people to the Summit to participate and provide feedback. I am happy to say it exceeded our expectations. The content was good, there was great networking, and the participants were impressed that they were not the only women in the room.


Over the years we have grown our sponsorship to Diamond Level and have had representation on the Advisory Board. Even as we went through a merger and changed our name to Nutrien, we have continued to stay involved. We are always thrilled to send employees to the annual Summit. This year, we are also looking at the possibility of a corporate membership to ensure our women have a chance to be part of the networking and learning that happens the rest of the year too.


3. What are the top three reasons you still support Women in Agribusiness Initiatives?


1). The content is fantastic. It is business-focused, with options for personal development if you want it. The information they present is relevant to our industry and is something that participants can bring back for use in their day-to-day roles. It is not a women’s conference so much as a conference for agriculture professionals first.

2). The networking is great. Our participants are excited to meet people from other companies, sometimes those we directly compete with, in a setting where we are all learning and supporting each other. It also has an open atmosphere where individuals do tend to mingle with others more. Our regular attendees love the fact they see many of the same faces each year.


3). The support for women in the sector. So often, if you are a woman at events in this sector, you are the only one, or one of the few, in attendance. It can be exhausting to always be aware that you are the minority, or that you are breaking ground for others. Women in Agribusiness Initiatives allows our women to just focus on getting the most out of the experience.


4. Please share with us a favorite memory of a WIA Summit.


A favorite one of course is when we won Company of the Year in 2014. That is an honor we will always be proud of.


Another favorite memory would be the year that Women in Ag was held in Denver. As our U.S. corporate head office is located in Loveland, Colorado, (about an hour away) we were proud to be able to show off many of the things Colorado has to offer. We worked with WIA on an offsite tour where attendees were able to tour our Loveland Products facility in Greeley, Colorado. Touring the plant, attendees were able to see first-hand how we process and package chemicals for distribution directly to farmers. They also had a chance to learn more about the science behind adjuvants and the changing technologies at our onsite lab. We got great feedback on the tour itself, with some individuals from other organizations saying it was one of the most interesting offsite tours they had been to. Our own volunteers were thrilled to show what we do and the pride we have it supporting growers.


ABOUT LESLIE COLEMAN


Leslie Coleman, vice president, equity diversity and inclusion, joined Nutrien in March 2021. Most recently, she was the global director of Diversity & Inclusion at International Paper (IP) in Memphis, Tennessee. Prior to joining IP, she served as the global HR leader at Cargill. Coleman is currently a National Board Member for the National Black MBA Association and former President for the Memphis Chapter, as well as Board Member for the Memphis Orpheum, TAG and YWCA, among other prestigious organizations.

She earned a bachelor's degree in human resources with a minor in psychology at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and a master’s degree in psychology and research from the University of Memphis, and published the article “Self Theories”. She also holds executive certifications with from both Harvard and Emory. Coleman has two sons, Lane and Luke, of which Luke is privileged to play football for the U.S. Naval Academy. Leslie and Lane reside in Memphis, Tennessee.


Coleman’s motto: “Forward to the possibilities,” has served her well and continues to be the groundswell for her success! Contact Coleman at: leslie.coleman@nutrien.com.

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