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International Women’s Day: What will it take to achieve gender equality?

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“There should be equality for all men and women at all levels, and all ages” was the compelling call from Anna, one of our young female talents at Nestlé CWA Ltd, about gender equality.

During our short conversation in the elevator a few weeks ago, I was struck by the composure, determination and focus of this bright graduate trainee when we talked about her current role – and her inspiring ambition to be a CEO herself in the future.

On this year’s International Women’s Day , her comment really made me think about what this year’s theme, #EachForEqual, actually means. As a senior leader, not only do I feel a responsibility to guide employees to aspire and empower themselves to become who they want to be, it is also about how collectively we can make ambitions like Anna’s a reality for all.

More African companies should step up gender equality initiatives

In Central and West Africa, an increasing number of companies, including Nestlé, have been making progress to boost gender balance. In Ghana, MTN opened a crèche at its new offices in Accra to provide childcare for employees’ children aged 5-15 months and breastfeeding facilities for mothers. Newmont Corporation is also aiming to change its male-dominated workplace by hiring and promoting employees, regardless of gender, and offering breastfeeding amenities on site.

These are just a few examples of companies in the region taking concrete actions to make gender equality a reality in the workplace.

However, these are not enough and progress needs to be accelerated. At the current pace of change, the World Economic Forum predicts that it will take a staggering 99.5 years to attain gender parity. Therefore, all employers should double their efforts to achieve gender balance.

Providing equal opportunities for both men and women

I believe a conscious effort must be made by all organisations, public and private, to offer equal opportunities to both men and women.

In Africa, this is challenging because young women, compared to young men, are less likely to be formally employed or go into education or training, according to The World Bank . Unequal access to education, early marriage rates among women and family responsibilities must be overcome swiftly to increase the number of women in the formal workforce.

Nestlé, as the world’s largest food and beverage company, took action last year to make gender balance a priority and announced the Gender Acceleration Plan , which is based on three pillars: bold leadership, an empowering culture and a set of enabling practices.

In our region, for example, we are actively increasing the number of women in departments that traditionally hire men. At the Technical Training Centres in Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria, we are balancing out the intake of candidates in training programmes, which were predominantly male in the past.

In fact, there has been nearly an 80% increase in admissions of women, and now there is almost an equal ratio of men to women in these training centres.

We have also recently appointed our first female factory manager, Joëlle Abega-Oyouomi, factory in Côte d’Ivoire that produces MAGGI bouillons. Before she took on this role, she headed Nestlé’s Research and Development Centre in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. In addition, we appointed the first female production manager for Nestlé CWA, Julia Atta, at the Tema factory in Ghana in 2018. These mark momentous milestones for our company in the region and challenge the ‘non-traditional’ line of work for women. These women are also remarkable role models for young African women aspiring to leadership positions.

Prioritise parental equality

As Anna and I discussed juggling family and work-life, she said that while she isn’t a mother yet, it is clear to her that pregnancy, childbirth and childcare falls heavily on women and could slow down career progression. Current maternity leave in Central and West Africa is better compared to many other countries in the world. However, are they sufficiently addressing the much-needed balance in child-rearing responsibilities?

Parental leave for both men and women helps to close the equality gap. It answers the desire of younger generations who increasingly want equal roles in parenting. Parental leave also has numerous benefits for business, the economy and society, as highlighted by Forbes . It helps transform the perception that caregiving is a female responsibility, it minimizes the ‘motherhood penalty’ in the workplace, and allows parents to invest time to ensure their child has the best start in life.

A trailblazing moment for Nestlé in the region will be the roll out of its gender-neutral parental support policy , which will be completed in 2021. Under this new policy, parental leave for primary caregivers – biological and adoptive – will be extended to 18 weeks fully paid leave and, for the first time, we will also offer a minimum of four weeks for secondary caregivers, like fathers, for whom the global minimum was previously one week.

Also Read: Interview: Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy For Girls Executive Director, Gugulethu Ndebele On Girls And Leadership

Equality starts at home and a company’s parental leave policy should be inclusive to enable employees thrive and achieve their career aspirations.

Lessening bias at work and at home

There are still a lot of preconceived ideas about men and women’s roles in African society.

According to the African Development Bank Group , African women are held back from fulfilling their potential, whether as leaders in public life, in the boardroom or in growing their own businesses. They spend too much time carrying out household activities – tasks that can be shared by both genders. Such traditional barriers are fundamentally unfair and can restrict women achieving their full potential.

A mind-set change from ground level to the top is necessary – there should be equality at entry-level positions, as well as in positions of power, since leadership should be reflective of the change we want to see.

To overcome biases, managers and employees at Nestlé receive diversity and inclusion training to instil a culture of inclusion and reduce bias in the workplace. Job advertisements are now gender neutral to minimize the perception that a specific role is directed at a particular sex.

Employment must be solely based on qualifications, experience and merit, not gender.

Empowering equality to become a reality

Achieving gender balance and equality should be a top priority in our society. This is why supporting #EachForEqual and endorsing equality across the company is part of Nestlé’s commitment to enhance gender balance in our workforce and empower women across the entire value chain .

We encourage other organisations and companies in Central and West Africa, and worldwide, to continue making progress in providing equal opportunities for both men and women, prioritising parental equality and lessening bias at home and at work.

Gender equality can be a reality and it is also up to all of us to instil this mentality and empower young talents like Anna. More women in the workplace makes business sense . It is good for companies, good for the economy and good for Africa.

This is indisputable and we must continue to drive diversity for all.

By Rémy Ejel, CEO of Nestlé Central and West Africa (CWA) Ltd

Nestlé Central and West Africa (CWA) Ltd

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The Ideal Startup Employee

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Image source: world economic forum

In the 1950s, the average age of a company on the S&P 500 index was 60. Today, that number is less than 18. This just means that the most successful corporations are growing three times faster than they have in the past. To succeed at this rate of rapid change, employees and business leaders have had to adapt by adopting growth mindsets, learning new skills, and embracing flexibility.

Here are some valuable tips that make you stand out as an exceptional startup employee.

It takes a certain type of personality to want to work at a startup . So just before you submit that resume, take a moment to compare your assets to these must-have traits below:

1. Adopting the Idea Generator personality.

Most business owners value employees who are able to take it upon themselves to do some exploring on their own, generate, develop, and communicate new ideas while figuring out solutions to difficult challenges. This involves taking ownership, wearing the hat of a divergent thinker, coming up with as many ideas, selecting the best idea or ideas, working to create a plan to implement the idea, and then actually taking that idea and putting it into practice.

2. Thriving in organized chaos.

Thee best way to describe a startup is fragile as a newborn baby. Some days, you wake up and realize, “What we’re building isn’t actually scalable. The immediate reaction to this would be to change things immediately. The best startup employees not only understand this mentality, but are ready to adapt to new changes alongside helping you spot issues along the way  for the improvement of the whole.

3. Applying oneself in building processes.

As times change, processes change too. What that means is, you have to not expect things to always be set in stone in a startup. Obviously, the goal for these sort of organizations is to find the ideal standards and build processes and best practices that scale and age well. Most of all, the ideal employee just understands when things need to change at a moment’s notice and be willing to run and sprint with it.

4. Looking beyond the formal job responsibilities.

When you’re working in a startup environment, there is a never-ending list of things that can be done. On some days, my to do list ranges from “in the weeds” tasks like prospective candidate follow-ups, vendor follow-ups, training new employees etc. Fluctuating between multiple tasks can be extremely mentally taxing however, the great startup employees realize they are building their “future role” at the company and beyond so they take it upon themselves to not only get their own work done, and done exceptionally well, but find other ways to check things off the company’s to do list even if it means being a salesperson for a hour.

5. Not measuring your value between the hours of 9 and 5

In order to be a valuable addition to a fast growing startup, you have to be fine with the fact that your day won’t always start right at 9:00AM and end the moment the clock hits 5:00PM . Some days will start earlier than normal and other days will go late. Some weekends, you’ll even find that you want to get some work done yourself  so that you don’t have a crazy week ahead. In a startup, you typically have more freedom, but with that freedom comes with high expectations of  exponential value.

6. Replacing short-term rewards for the longer-term payoff

It is common knowledge that building something great takes time. It’s also amazing to hear people say, “I was one of the pioneer staff at Uber,” or, “I was part of the first 20 at Microsoft.” In society, these early employees are praised and idolized almost just as much as the founders. If you want to be part of that pioneer group though, you have to really come to terms with the fact that none of those early employees signed themselves up for a “job.” Most of them believed in the vision. They wanted to be part of the building process and bring the founder’s vision to life.

7. Willingness to learn and be Intellectually CuriousWorking in a startup can be hard because almost everything you do is the “first time.” You’re constantly in exploration mode, which means you’re probably going to be fumbling in the dark for a while. A great startup employee thrives in this sort of high learning environment. They take it upon themselves to do some learning on their own without management having to necessarily push you. Independently identify resources needed to improve on existing skills.

Also Read: Wahida Mohamed: Empowering Women And Championing Islamic Financing In Sub Saharan Africa

Every day is a fire-fighting day for a startup. I have come to realize that both large and small companies will invest in team members who are ready to adapt to change with an intense sense of ownership over their responsibilities, and often beyond them as well. You have to be ready to bring something new to the table on a daily basis to thrive in this startup environment.

Written by: Nneka Alfred

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Press Release

Helios Investment Partners Backed Africa Specialty Risk Group Launches

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Africa Specialty Risk Group CEO, Mikir Shah

Helios Investment Partners (“Helios” or the “Firm”) is pleased to announce the launch of Africa Specialty Risk Group (“ASR”) in partnership with Mikir Shah, former CEO of AXA Africa Specialty Risks, and Bryan Howett, former CEO of Old Mutual’s pan-African reinsurance operations. ASR is a reinsurance business focused on becoming the partner of choice to corporations through the provision of comprehensive and bespoke risk mitigating insurance solutions.

Helios, through its extensive financial services expertise in Africa, identified an unmet need in the reinsurance space to expand the continent’s long-term domestic capacity beyond its current capabilities. Having previously founded market-leading businesses such as Helios Towers, the Firm
took a similar pioneering approach in partnering with Mikir Shah and Bryan Howett to develop and increase domestic reinsurance capacity.

Also Read: Lindelwe Lesley Ndlovu, African Risk Capacity (ARC) CEO Shares Goals, Disaster Risk Solutions, COVID-19 and Future

ASR will create tailored solutions for local and global customers, using Africa-specific pricing models coupled with a deep understanding of African risk and cultural environments. This provides corporates and investors with the confidence to grow their businesses, thereby unlocking investment activity, and the associated developmental benefits.

Mikir Shah, commenting on the partnership noted: “We chose to work with Helios given their extensive reach across Africa, their knowledge and experience in our key markets, as well as their established track record in helping entrepreneurial businesses to scale.”

Souleymane Ba, a Partner at Helios, said: “We have identified a sustained lack of adequate insurance capacity across Africa, which has been exacerbated further by Covid-19 as global reinsurance providers focus on their home markets. ASR has been established to address this gap by providing specialist risk mitigation products which companies and capital providers operating in Africa have found difficult to access to date. As demonstrated in the US and Europe, private equity has a long and successful track record of stepping up to fill unmet insurance capacity to de-risk and support investment activity.”

ASR intends to work proactively with local regulators and clients to develop skills and provide training to local underwriters. Environmental, social and governance considerations are central to ASR’s values, particularly in relation to local capacity building.

The investment in ASR is being made from Helios’ latest fund, Helios Investors IV, L.P., whose investors include CDC Group (the UK’s development finance institution) and the International Finance Corporation (a member of the World Bank Group).

Issued by Helios Investment Partners

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Press Release

METTĀ And Nairobi Garage Join Forces To Create Kenya’s Biggest Innovation Community

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Nairobi, September 15, 2020 – Kenya’s leading co-working space Nairobi Garage and entrepreneurial club METTĀ have announced they are combining their services to create the country’s largest innovation community, offering flexible access to all their workspaces and networks, as well as a new digital event series.

African businesses are facing a disrupted marketplace due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with day-to-day operations and the economic outlook for businesses of all sizes feeling the impact. As a result, there is a renewed demand for flexible work space arrangements, allowing companies to remain responsive to the market and keep their teams productive without tying up much-needed working capital.

As Kenya’s leading co-working space, Nairobi Garage is home to over 150 companies across its four premises, giving members total flexibility when it comes to the office space they need, as well as offering a range of add-on business development, collaboration, and networking opportunities.

METTĀ is a club for the entrepreneurial community to connect, share knowledge and bring ideas to life. With 370 members in Nairobi, and over 15,000 members in its digital community, METTĀ offers a range of events, workshops and corporate innovation programmes.

By joining forces, METTĀ and Nairobi Garage members will have access to both organisations’ workspaces throughout Nairobi – with drop-in and private office options available in Westlands, Riverside Drive, Karen and Kilimani -, as well as to all the complimentary business support services provided across the two communities. All members will benefit from exclusive corporate collaborations and partnerships – such as discounts, programmes, and first dibs on funding and training opportunities.

The organisations have also combined their entrepreneurship events and will launch an online event series offering thought leadership, innovation and practical business advice. The series involves six monthly events, including panel discussions, networking e-meetups, and podcasts.

Also Read: Chynna Morgan – helping brands create memorable experiences using sound + music with GIF Out Loud

“We are confident in the resilience and capacity of Kenyan entrepreneurs to come back from this pandemic stronger than ever. We want to support them in doing just that, and this merging of forces is a demonstration of our belief in the strength of both our communities. It’s of utmost importance that innovation in business continues to be a priority, and we’re here to facilitate that process for the country’s top entrepreneurs,” says Hannah Clifford, director of Nairobi Garage.

Esther Mwikali, general manager of METTĀ, says: “We have always believed that “Innovation doesn’t happen in isolation”. Outstanding innovation breakthroughs occur when the right people collaborate, to spark commercialisation and scale. This partnership is a true testament to our
vision, as we are taking our own advice and leading by example – the value we offer our customers and the community at large through this is greatly increasing.”

With the business landscape plagued by so many uncertainties in the COVID-era, Nairobi Garage and METTĀ want to provide a sturdy, strong foundation for businesses in Kenya to thrive. By combining their two trusted names, members can have the most complete support available to weather the current storm.

To become a member, people should write to join@nairobigarage.com or nairobi@metta.co

New members joining in the month of September get 10% off their first month’s membership.

Jointly Issued by: Nairobi Garage and METTA

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