JULY 2018 Member Spotlight

Peter Beets

July 2018

Finance Director, Global Audit & Consult, Procter & Gamble

Why D&I also matters to Men

Can you tell us a bit about your background and your role?

I originally come from Antwerp, Belgium, where I studied Economics & Finance. I joined Procter & Gamble 20 years ago. During those years I worked in a variety of finance roles in Belgium, The Netherlands, UK and Switzerland. Since 2011 I work in Geneva, initially as Finance Director for the European region; then I led the divestiture transition of the P&G Specialty Beauty business to Coty; and since 18 months I am the Finance Director for Global Audit & Consult.

I am married to Machteld, who also comes from Belgium. Together we have 3 children: Alexander, Laure-Anne and Emile. Interestingly, as my two oldest children are now in secondary school, diversity and gender equality are topics they discuss at school; so recently I started having conversations with my kids about the activities we do with LEAD Network. As you can probably imagine, my daughter can ask me some challenging questions on this!

Why are you passionate about the mission of LEAD Network?

I have been involved in D&I initiatives for more than 15 years. I went through a first phase that I would call “my years of being an ally”. That changed two years ago, when I participated in a MARC workshop (*). There I moved from being an ally to wanting to take action and make a difference. Why? Because MARC gave me a new level of understanding. It took me on an experiential journey, changing my views on unconscious bias, on dominant groups, and on privileges. It made me realize that these factors very much exist, and will continue to exist. It made me understand that their existence itself is not the issue; the issue is how we “deal” with them. It made me see more clearly how these factors play at work, for instance in talent discussions, and outside work, starting with how we raise our children. It made me realize that I was contributing to these dynamics … and that I had to change some of my habits, some of my “automatisms”. It became very clear that unless men and women jointly take action that these dynamics will continue for many generations to come. That was an unacceptable prospect for me … so the choice was clear: I needed to become more active.

A colleague introduced me to LEAD Network and in November 2017 I became the Chair of the Membership Committee. LEAD offers me an excellent network with a great diversity of members that allows me to learn from other members on how they help drive equality and inclusion. LEAD offers a platform where I can discuss challenges and barriers and where I can source new ideas. LEAD Network unites us so that, together, we can make more progress.

How do you help diversity and inclusion as a male champion?

First, I know that I need to continue to learn. This is an ongoing journey. I still discover some biases that I have. I still do things and then realize later that I could have done it in a different, better way. For instance, with my kids: I used to accept that my daughter was better at language and arts, and my sons were better at math and science. Then I challenged myself … and I spent more time with my daughter on math and science. Her results on these subjects are now as good as those of the boys; and right now, science is her favourite subject! So, I am trying to self-assess and challenge myself to truly see and act equal.

Second, as part of a group of MARC alumni within P&G, I am helping to drive the MARC initiative within P&G. We hold frequent sessions with colleagues where we share our experiences, have a dialogue on equality and inclusion, and encourage them to start their MARC journey. But MARC only really comes to life when we put the experience into practise … when we move into action. That is the most difficult step, but also the most important step of the journey. It is not always comfortable because it requires you to speak up, to point things out to people. For instance, recently I was in a meeting where two peers, a male and a female, were presenting to our lead team. I knew that both individuals had made an equal contribution to the work, so both were equally deserving of recognition. During the presentation, whenever our VP asked a question, the man immediately jumped and started answering. At some point he even turned to the woman and told her: “I will take this question”. So, I had my internal sirens going off … At first, I gently tried to signal to the man that he should let the woman talk too … but the signals did not register. Next, I started to intervene more explicitly, like “I would like to hear the perspective of XYZ (the woman), so XYZ, please let me know what you think about this”. After the session, I then took the man aside and coached him on what he had been doing; and as you could expect, it was completely unconscious. But I also coached the woman, pointing out to her what misperception could be created if she let him do all the talking, and I encouraged her to ensure she takes her share of the questions and speaks up.

Lastly, by being an active member of LEAD Network, I also try to encourage more men to join LEAD. Men still often are part of the dominant group in companies, and if we do not have the dominant group onboard, the progress we can make is limited. So, let me also use this channel to encourage more men to join!!! The reality today is that only 14% of LEAD members are male. Here is a challenge to all of you, men and women: if everyone who reads this article, can convince at least one male colleague or friend to become a member of LEAD Network, we will make a good step forward! I hope you will take me up on this challenge, and I look forward to welcoming many new men to the network soon!!!

(*) MARC stands for Men Advocating Real Change. It is an initiative of Catalyst. For more information on MARC, go to: http://onthemarc.org/home.