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Dairy Industry Strengthening Focus on Improving Diversity, Inclusivity and Development, IDFA President and CEO Tells World Dairy Summit

CHICAGO, Oct. 19, 2023—Michael Dykes, president & CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), reinforced the dairy industry’s commitment to creating an inclusive culture that fosters professional development and empowerment for all people throughout their careers today at the 2023 IDF World Dairy Summit.

Dykes, joining a panel focused on diverse workforces, highlighted IDFA People Strategy programs that engage and support leaders at all levels in the dairy industry who are working to create world-class places of employment across a variety of manufacturing and operational settings—from dairy processing plants to office buildings and remote places of work.

“The future of the dairy industry and our ability to remain globally competitive depends on developing the workforce of the future, cultivating the next generation of leaders, and empowering and supporting diversity in leadership roles,” said Dykes. “IDFA and its members are dedicated to creating an industry that is supportive and inclusive of anyone with the interest and skills needed to help us bring sustainable dairy nutrition to more people around the world. If there is a shared priority in our industry, it is PEOPLE—recruiting a skilled workforce, providing the policies and incentives to support people, providing for their health and safety, and creating workplace environments that are equitable and inclusive of all people.”

Dykes outlined how the trade association developed the IDFA People Strategy in 2019 to support the development opportunities for individuals in the dairy industry at all levels of their careers to advance and grow our industry. The People Strategy programs expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many current and future employees began questioning their career choices. Today, five signature IDFA People Strategy programs support emerging leaders (the NextGen Leadership Program and the IDFA Leadership Symposium), women (the Women in Dairy network), human resources professionals (HR Leaders in Dairy), DEI professionals and their workforce (the Dairy Diversity Coalition), along with partnerships with college membership organizations to appeal to graduates.

“We have a comprehensive approach because there are multifaceted challenges,” said Dykes. “The work we are doing to identify and remove barriers to women excelling in the workplace is just one example of the People Strategy in action.”

In his remarks to IDF World Dairy Summit attendees, Dykes announced three new IDFA People Strategy initiatives:

  • IDFA will present a new Workplace of the Year Award in January at Dairy Forum 2024 in partnership with Dairy Processing magazine. The award will recognize an outstanding IDFA member company that has created policies to promote a positive workplace experience for employees.
  • In March 2024, IDFA will host its first annual IDFA Women’s Summit in Washington, D.C., to celebrate and empower women in the dairy industry. The Summit will convene rising and established leaders to advance gender equality, bolster their leadership skills, advocate for dairy’s top policy priorities, and network.
  • IDFA is also fielding its first annual State of Women in Dairy Survey, which will be used to improve retention, recruiting, and gender equality in U.S. dairy. IDFA will release the results of the survey at Dairy Forum 2024. The annual survey builds on research done by IDFA among member companies in spring 2023, which found that 61% of survey respondents feel gender has played a role in their missing out on a raise, promotion, key assignment, or chance to get ahead.
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