Ambassador Spotlight: Donnica Hawes-Saunders

“[I value] being an internal and external champion of advancing women in the workplace.”

Name: Donnica Hawes-Saunders, Partnerships Manager, Global Transformation Communications, Philip Morris International

Ambassador Since: June 2021

What interested you in becoming an ambassador for NEW?

I was interested in being a NEW ambassador because of the value NEW brings to corporations. Partnering with an organization committed to advancing all women in the workplace and providing the resources and opportunities to connect and amplify women’s voices is important to the work I do daily. According to Entrepreneur Magazine, in 2021, of businesses that employ gender equality practices, 73 percent reported increased profitability and productivity. While equitable practices are inherently good for women, it’s clear they’re also good for businesses — for the bottom line as well as the office culture. It’s important to me to deliver the best outcome possible for the company I work for, the people I work with, and provide more equitable spaces in business.

What are the unique ways you bring the NEW mission to life inside your organization?

PMI’s NEW partnership is through the U.S. Women’s Employee Resource Group (ERG), U.S. Women’s Inspiration Network (U.S. WIN), which was formed with a vision to commit to the development of future women leaders internally and externally, increase employee engagement, and push forward the transformation into a company that women aspire to work and collaborate with as external partners and allies. One of the unique components of this partnership is that it’s international, we have over twenty-five countries represented in our membership. We stay connected via a monthly NEW newsletter and sponsored opportunities for employees to participate in NEW summits, conferences, programming.

Does your company have any specific diversity, equity & inclusion goals? If so, how does a NEW partnership help achieve them?

PMI has placed inclusion and diversity at the core of its business strategy as a key enabler for the company’s business transformation from a traditional cigarette manufacturer to a science and technology-minded company with a pipeline of innovative smoke-free products. Achieving gender balance at all levels of the company is one of the top priorities. There is a focus on leveraging the full talents of both women and men. Currently, women make up 42 percent of PMI’s workforce. Just over 37 percent of management positions are held by women. The goal is to increase that figure to at least 40 percent by 2022. NEW’s mission to create a new model for workplace transformation by amplifying women’s voices and influencing the workplace with a laser-focus on overcoming gender-based challenges helps PMI achieve its gender diversity goals.

How has being a NEW member and ambassador empowered you professionally?

Being a NEW member and ambassador is empowering because of the opportunities you have to learn, connect, and grow your skills within a community of 13,000 other industry leaders. The occasions to expand your management talents and build your personal brand, access to signature learning programs, and the overall network of like-minded women who are invested in you is encouraging and energizing. NEW is great place to continue to build out your professional tribe.

Tell us about a recent personal accomplishment or event in your life.

Recently, I was awarded the 2021 Top 10 Diversity Impact Actions Award by PRISM International and Talent Dimensions for creating and institutionalizing an inaugural U.S. internship program with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) at Philip Morris International (PMI). The Diversity Impact Award is a premier, annual, national award that recognizes, honors, and celebrates companies who integrate diversity and inclusion into their culture by implementing programs and initiatives that support their business strategy and diversity. PMI’s U.S. internship is the first of its kind at the company and is exclusively with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). As a graduate of Spelman College, the global leader in education for black women and the #1 HBCU in the United States, I was honored to build a program that bridges new civil society relationships for PMI as well as facilitates new corporate talent pipelines for the company.

What is your favorite NEW event you’ve attended?

PMI’s partnership with NEW launched in June 2021, so I haven’t been able to attend any events yet. I’ve just attended Ambassador meetings and regional committee meetings. That said, I’m very much looking forward to the NEW Leadership Summit next month!

What other activities, aside from being an amazing ambassador, do you enjoy in your free time?

In my free time, I enjoy running, good TV shows, and spending time with my family and friends. Also, my husband and I recently got a puppy, Truffle, who has enthusiastically introduced us to the joys of dog bars, dog parks, and dog festivals!


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