While several companies have taken steps toward greater diversity at the top management and executive levels, the overall move forward is still a work in progress, according to a recent Women in Snacks panel during SNAC International’s Executive Leadership Forum.

Monica Cole, executive vice-president, national food, beverage and agribusiness leader, Wells Fargo, pointed out that companies need to do more to mirror the communities and customers they serve.

“What we’re starting to learn is the way we think about recruiting team members, the way we think about building a team has to reflect what this country is going to look like 10 to 15 years from now and not what it is today,” she said.

Recalling how she was often the only woman in meetings, the 24-year veteran at Wells Fargo encouraged attendees not only to pursue diversity but also to create an environment of inclusion where men, women and people of color are comfortable exchanging ideas and bringing their skills to the table.

“Diversity is the easy part,” she said. “Inclusion is the difficult part.”

Gregg Roden, senior vice-president, supply chain for Frito-Lay North America, suggested that businesses need to do a better job of creating opportunities and communicating those leadership position openings to a broader audience of candidates. Moreover, leadership sponsors and mentors need to clearly communicate with their candidates to ensure they’re appropriately placed in the most qualified positions as they advance in a company. And Valerie Oswalt, c.e.o. of Century Snacks, stressed that companies need a greater number of women, ethnic and white male advocates need to step it up to advance diversity at the executive leadership level.