Ana Carolina Alcalá Wilson – Kimberly-Clark Corporation
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, store shelves were being wiped out by people stocking up on essential supplies.
Among the hardest-to-find items was toilet paper. For manufacturers, including the Kimberly-Clark Corporation, keeping up with demand was a challenge. The international company is known for the brands Cottonelle and Scott, as well as other paper and home items, such as diapers, tissues, paper towels and menstrual products.
While navigating supply issues, the company has also had to ensure employees are kept safe and healthy. In Panama, Ana Carolina Alcalá Wilson, the legal and corporate affairs manager for north Latin America operations, leads these efforts. She oversees legal issues for Panama, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Guatemala, Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands.
As she tracks changing regulations and implements new safety policies, Alcalá Wilson draws on her experience practicing law in her native Venezuela to navigate legal uncertainties.
“Any lawyer who practices in Venezuela is trained to handle the many changes that stem from the political and social dynamics,” she says. “Being trained in risk assessment and crisis management has allowed us to find a good balance between responding quickly and appropriately, which has been very helpful during the pandemic.”
Leading with care
In early 2020, Kimberly-Clark Corporation created new safety policies and initiatives for its offices, production mills and distribution centers, with company leaders in each market tailoring them to local regulations.
In northern Latin America, Alcalá Wilson monitored legislative changes and national and local health alerts to create policies for remote work, medical leave, occupancy restrictions and more. She says she and leaders in other Kimberly-Clark markets went beyond what the law dictated to ensure the utmost safety.
“We took our purpose—‘better care for a better world’—and put it at the heart of our actions and decision-making,” she says.
While production and distribution workers have been at work throughout the pandemic, Alcalá Wilson says office workers have been gradually returning.
“As vaccination rates continue to rise and the epidemiological situation improves in several of the countries of Latin America, we believe that we have reached the long-awaited moment of being able to reunite in person in some countries,” she says.
Empowering women leaders
Alcalá Wilson says Kimberly-Clark’s “reactive” work related to the pandemic is decreasing, allowing the company to focus on long term goals.
For example, it plans to achieve gender parity in management roles in the next 10 years. In the northern Latin American region, almost 1,200 women hold leadership roles, which includes senior executives, mill and supply chain leaders, operators, quality inspectors and maintenance supervisors.
To support this aim, the company provided lactation rooms for mothers and extending mandated maternity leave by 20 days. The company supports women in the community as well, including through a program called Working Moms. It provides training and resources for mothers returning to the workforce after taking time off to care for their children.
One of the company’s brands, Kotex, which makes menstrual products, has an initiative that provides women employees in Latin America with mentorship opportunities, roundtable discussions and forums on women’s empowerment, and personal development opportunities.
“Each of these actions promotes networking to provide greater visibility for the next generation of female leaders and to create opportunities for accompaniment with more experienced executives,” Alcalá Wilson says.
While Alcalá Wilson is already in a leadership role at the company, she’s still committed to continued professional development. She’s currently taking a legal technology specialization course online at George Washington University.
She’s always been interested in technology and decided to learn more after her two young sons pointed out a non-fungible token on a billboard. They began asking questions about NFTs, cryptocurrency and the cloud.
“I didn’t know the answers to their questions, but I promised to find out,” she says. “As a parent of children interested in technology, I think it’s necessary to merge one’s own interests with theirs to foster two-way communication.”
Alcalá Wilson says the specialization will help her in her work at Kimberly-Clark, especially as the company becomes more innovative in how it “disrupts the market,” she says. She started with the company in 2015 as the legal and corporate affairs director in Venezuela. She was promoted to her current position in early 2018.
“Other than the incredible team of professionals with whom I interact daily, there are two fundamental aspects that I highly value in my work: our focus on social responsibility and innovation,” Alcalá Wilson says. “Kimberly-Clark empowers women and girls all over the world with entrepreneurship and education programs; it provides families with resources to meet babies’ essential needs; it helps communities access decent toilet facilities; and it has collected 21,000 tons of recyclable products.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Summer I 2022 Edition here.
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