GENDER BALANCE IS WHAT NATURE INTENDED. GENDER EQUALITY IS A BUSINESS IMPERATIVE.
By Balaka Niyazee, CEO, P&G Korea and Executive Sponsor for Gender Equality, Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa
Gender equality makes good business sense. But even as Asia’s young and well-educated workforce continues to make great socio-economic strides forward, there is still a gender gap in the workplace, especially at the leadership level.
We cannot wait for this gap to be bridged by itself. We need intentional affirmative action. It’s time for forward-thinking companies to accelerate change inside the company and spark meaningful conversation & action outside the company. Here are 3 ways to actively move the needle on gender equality.
- Equal opportunity for men and women
It is a fact that diverse viewpoints help drive better solutions. We cannot continue to reinforce unconscious bias by offering women only certain types of jobs.
This requires companies to rewrite the playbook to create a gender equal workplace. We work hard to foster diversity in our STEM departments, which include Research and Development (R&D), Product Supply and Finance including a Women in Innovation Network to support the retention and advancement of women in STEM. These important functions are 50.7% female.
We have many examples where we have been deliberate about this. For instance, like many manufacturing sites, our Jakarta Plant had a predominantly male workforce and the social norm is that women are the primary caretakers of children. Many families had difficulty finding childcare, so women would drop out of the workforce at a very high rate. P&G Jakarta became the first company in Indonesia to have an onsite daycare in a manufacturing plant. This provided quality childcare on-site and enabled working Moms & Dads to continue their careers and family responsibilities. Now, 50% of our Jakarta Plant’s technician leaders are women and 35% women are on the operations floor.
In Saudi Arabia, we were the first consumer goods company to employ women. In our India Hyderabad Plant, we advocated for women to be given the same opportunities as men, including the choice of working at the night shift in our plant if that choice matched their needs.
- Leadership comes in different styles. There is a common myth that women lack confidence, fear failure and are less ambitious which is why there are fewer females in leadership positions. This is untrue. Feminine behavior is not “lacking” just because it differs from a legacy prototype of an alpha masculine leader. Equally valuable are men who exhibit different leadership characteristics from the stereotypical alpha male leadership characteristics.
Women and men were born with different innate behaviors, but no less equal to each other. We must recognize and celebrate this diversity and not judge them. I have personally experienced that a diverse team always outperforms the one that is not.
Prior to becoming the Vice President of P&G Korea, majority of my career had been in Sales, which is typically a male-dominated function. I have learnt that it is not the style that matters, but the influence and outcome one drives. This thought has empowered me and many leaders in P&G to offer crucible and defining roles to women leaders, which were erstwhile considered male bastions. We overcame our own biases and witnessed tremendous business and organization success.
We need more women in leadership positions to role model. We need to offer tough, crucible and career-defining roles to the best of our talents, both men and women – truly being gender- agnostic.
- Leverage scale to spark change and correct bias
It is important for businesses to leverage their influence beyond the workplace. At P&G, we believe that media and advertising have the power to challenge mindsets to accelerate change towards equality and inclusion. Many of our Top Brands have challenged gender stereotypes and sparked meaningful conversation. Examples include SK-II’s blockbuster Change Destiny campaign, Ariel’s Share the Load campaign in India, Joy’s Job to Joy ad in Japan and Gillette’s “Shave Stereotypes” ad in India and “Women’s Day” ad in South Africa.
We are also intentional about gender balance with our external stakeholders like suppliers and agency partners. Our P&G Women Supplier Diversity Program includes advocacy efforts to ensure women-owned businesses are a part of our ecosystem. In Singapore, we completed our inaugural Women Entrepreneurs Development Program in partnership with UN Women and WeConnect International featuring 19 female business owners who received practical training in business development by P&G senior executives and external experts. In other regions, we deliberately create economic opportunities for women business owners in our supply chain.
We must continue to inspire advocacy among more and more partners – from individuals, to companies in the private sector, to organizations in the public sector – to share our commitment to empower women. Gender Balance is what nature intended and we have much to do to correct the mistakes we have made through generations to create a level playing field where we all truly see equal. #WeSeeEqual.