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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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Press Release

Releaf Partners with IITA to Improve Growth and Sustainability in Oil Palm Production

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Releaf VP Sourcing – Ayodeji Jayeoba (left), Nteranya Sanginga – DG, IITA (Middle) Ikenna Nzewi – CEO, Releaf (Right) (Image: Supplied)

Releaf, an agtech startup that develops proprietary hardware and software solutions that makes African farmers and food factories more efficient and profitable, has partnered with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture to improve growth and sustainability in oil palm production in Nigeria and across Africa.

The partnership will enable the startup and the award-winning research-for-development organisation to explore ways to increase oil palm yields, deploy the best intercropping mechanisms, and work with fabrication and mechanisation experts to foster further innovation and development in Nigeria’s smallholder-driven oil palm sector.

Despite having 80 percent of market share, 4 million smallholder farmers in Nigeria’s oil palm sector are unable to maximise the opportunity available to them. Due to relatively low yields and limited access to adequate processing equipment. Releaf has invented Kraken – West Africa’s most advanced palm nut de-sheller. Which can process up to 500 metric tons of palm nuts per week to produce premium palm kernel products at 95% purity, better than the 88% industry standard. Releaf also works with farmers to improve their output. By encouraging the adoption of best practices to increase their yield. And supporting farming activities that are good for the environment.

In the early 1960s, Nigeria was the world’s largest oil palm producer with a global market share of 43 per cent. Today, it contributes less than two percent of total global production. IITA will support Releaf with soil fertility analysis, access to its facilities, oil palm management programmes and leaf analysis for improved productivity. The partnership will also explore how insect waste can be recycled into organic waste that can be used to fertilise oil palm or as a source of nutrition for livestock.

According to Ikenna Nzewi, CEO and co-founder of Releaf, “IITA has a long and rich history of working with international and national partners to impact agricultural value chains. And we are really excited to be partnering with them. IITA also represents the beginning of the journey that led me to co-found Releaf and I am grateful for the opportunity to take this relationship forward. Oil palm is one of our most ubiquitous plants and we must continue to develop technology to improve its sustainable impact on rural communities’ livelihoods.”

IITA Director General Nteranya Sanginga said, “We are really impressed by what Releaf has already achieved in such a short space of time. I recall our first meeting with Ikenna in 2015 and it is great to see what that first encounter has led to. Investing in research and development is always a great advantage for everyone. And we are looking forward to working with Releaf to explore more ways to add value across the agricultural value chain.”

 

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Press Release

Social media main enabler for growth among women-owned businesses

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95% of women SMEs in the region identify social media channels as the top tool to drive their business ventures

Mastercard, the Official Payment Technology Partner of Expo 2020 Dubai, and Female Fusion Network unveiled new research at the first in a series of workshops for the region’s female entrepreneurs at the world’s largest cultural gathering.

Held at Expo 2020 Dubai’s Women’s Pavilion, in collaboration with Cartier, the session focused on the power of the digital economy in enabling women-owned businesses to go online. In a study conducted among Female Fusion’s network of 20,000+ members across the region, it was revealed that 95% of women SMEs in the region identify social media channels as the top tool for their business ventures. Other channels include their own e-commerce websites (72%) as well as messaging services such as Facebook and Whatsapp (50%).

In addition, three out of four (72%) women-owned businesses said they rely on word of mouth to market their products and services. The workshop identified how SMEs can make the most of their online footprint, and better connect to their consumers in a digital economy.

Speakers included Ngozi Megwa, Senior Vice President, Digital Partnerships MEA, Mastercard, Sarah Beydoun, Founder and Creative Director of social impact fashion business Sarah’s Bag in Lebanon, Ioanna Angelidaki, co-founder of Instashop, and Maureen Hall, Founder and CEO of COÉGA Sunwear.

“The findings from the study indicate a clear need for further education and empowerment. Mastercard has long pushed for the success and growth of women as we break gender barriers around the world. Digital tools and technologies are the greatest equalizer for businesses and as the shift towards e-commerce becomes increasingly permanent, we are committed to helping women businesses go digital and grow digital as they pursue their entrepreneurial passions,” said Ngozi Megwa, Senior Vice President, Digital Partnerships MEA, Mastercard.

The recent unveiling of the inaugural Mastercard MEA SME Confidence Index also revealed that in terms of a digital footprint of the region’s women entrepreneurs, social media (71%) leads the way followed by a company website (57%).

“We are proud of the successful launch of our workshop series in partnership with Mastercard. As a growing community of ambitious women leaders, Female Fusion Network looks to support our members with access to platforms that offer simple yet effective takeaways for them to grow their business. We look forward to having more of these impactful sessions during Expo 2020 Dubai,” said Jennifer Blandos, Managing Partner, Female Fusion Network.

Mastercard has made a global commitment to connect 25 million women entrepreneurs to the digital economy by 2025 as part of its goal to build a more sustainable and inclusive world. As part of its efforts, the technology leader recently launched  ‘The Entrepreneur’s Odyssey’ a first-of-its kind digital education platform that brings together a range of world-class academic and business resources to help small businesses learn and thrive.

 

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Press Release

Acronis, Cyber Protection Leader appoints Technology Veteran Paul Maritz, as Chairman of the Board

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Acronis Board Chairman, Paul Maritz (Image: Supplied)

Acronis, a global leader in cyber security and data protection, today announced that Paul Maritz has been appointed as the Chairman of the Board of Directors, effective September 21, 2021. Maritz will be responsible for the governance and leadership of Acronis as it strengthens its position in the service provider market preparing for significant growth in the future.

Earlier this year, Acronis raised $250M at a $2.5B valuation, and announced former GoDaddy’s partners business president, Patrick Pulvermüller, as the new chief executive officer. The strengthened management team will use the momentum to provide Acronis’ partners with the tools that they need to deal with a rapidly changing digital world.

The challenge of providing MSPs with effective tools to manage the environments of their customers is becoming increasingly complex, particularly in a world where security is becoming an overwhelming issue. Security can no-longer be handled by having an SMB end customer put together a plethora of individual tools. Modern threats have exposed the need for an integrated approach and automated cyber protection that solves the safety, accessibility, privacy, authenticity, and security (SAPAS) challenges of the modern digital world.

Acronis Cyber Protect provides all the management tools of the future that service providers need to do an effective job for their customers to help them grow their business. As well as developing its own technology, Acronis will continue to make acquisitions to become one of the world’s major players of providing the most innovative backup, security, and management tools on the market. Over 12,000 service providers trust Acronis Cyber Protect to manage over 2,000,000 workloads around the world, positioning Acronis for even more company growth in the future.  

“Paul brings a wealth of experience developing products to meet market demands and take companies to the next level. His becoming Chairman represents another step forward for Acronis in solidifying its position as a global leader in cyber protection. Paul’s experience with innovations at scale will help us to continue delivering easy, efficient, and secure cyber protection to service providers and their customers of any size,” said Patrick Pulvermüller, Acronis CEO.

“With its strength in backup and security, Acronis is well positioned to build a platform for a comprehensive list of management tools, helping service providers deliver modern cyber protection to their customers today and in the future. Acronis Cyber Protect is a great example of what can be done. Acronis will continue extensive research and development in this direction, helping partners optimize their operations and stay ahead of the competition,” said Paul Maritz, Acronis Chairman of the Board.

Maritz first joined the Board of Directors in May 2021, bringing 40 years of experience in computer science and software to the cyber protection company.

In his previous executive roles, Paul served on the Executive Staff of Microsoft, was the CEO of VMware, and was CEO and Founder of Pivotal Software. Paul currently is an active investor and serves on the Boards of several start-up technology companies.

Paul graduated with a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from the Universities of Natal and Cape Town. He is active in the nonprofit world, served for 10 years on the Board of the Grameen Foundation, which supports financial inclusion and technology in the developing world, and supports conservation efforts in Africa.

Paul Maritz replaces René Bonvanie, whose leadership helped Acronis develop an effective strategy to expand global presence and deliver easy, efficient, and secure cyber protection to customers of any size. Acronis wishes to thank René Bonvanie for his contribution to the company development and growth.

 

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