By: Mansoor Ahmad
LAHORE: Sue Johnson, Global Head of Gender Balance and Diversity at Nestle, is responsible for broadening and deepening the diversity of the company’s employees’ base of 280,000 working in over 100 countries around the world. She gave an interview to The News during her visit to Pakistan. Following are the excerpts of the interview.
Q. What do you actually want to achieve through your diversity policy?
A. We are striving for gender balance in our organisation based on merit and equal opportunities for both men and women. We do not favour any particular gender and ensure that hurdles faced by any gender at workplace are removed. We want that there should be no discrimination in appointment and promotion for any particular gender.
Q. Do you see gender discrimination in Pakistan?
A. It all depends on a culture of a society. Women workforce is in minority in Latin American countries as is in Pakistan. We respect the system that prevails in Pakistan but low number of women workers is not due to flaws in the system. Pakistani law does not discriminate against women. For instance, we observe that the number of women in our organisation is very low in line jobs. We recently encouraged both sexes to apply for lower cadre jobs. For the first time, three women applied for a line job. Since one female candidate was best qualified, she got the job on merit. The culture of respect in the organisation for women acted as a catalyst and the next time we advertised for the job, the number of women applicants would increase manifold. We think that we can increase women participation in work by providing respectful gender harassment free atmosphere to all our workers.
Q. Which countries do have better gender equality?
A. In Europe, we found that women were more dominant in Eastern Europe where they were inducted in workforce in large numbers. We are in fact making efforts to encourage more men in our organisation. In Asia, there is a better gender balance in China. Women are joining the workforce in large number in India where gender disparity is reducing.
We made some adjustment in our recruitment procedures in India. Earlier, the entire selection panel was composed of men. Now, there is at least one woman in each panel that recruits new staff. After this intervention, the number of new workers in our firm has become more balanced.
Q. How do you promote gender balance and what is the men-women ratio in your organisation?
A. Job harassment of women discourages fair gender to join workforce. We conduct training and awareness programmes in our organisation. The employees know that there is a zero tolerance against harassment of any gender at workplace. Once it is established that the workers will not be discriminated on the basis of gender, the fear factor would eliminate and more women would join workforce.
A recent survey of 15 large corporate entities in Pakistan revealed that on an average five percent women are working at the top management level. The women occupying top management job in Nestle account for ten percent of the total top jobs in the organisation. We have lower percentage of women workers at the lower level but that is not because of any bias. Most competent person gets the job on merit. We also have to respect the law in Pakistan that allows women to work in factories up to 10 pm in a day.
Q. How long would it take to create a gender balance in Pakistan and what should the government do in this regard?
A. We have a long way to go. We still have not reached a stage where men and women move in the career at same pace. We have not set quotas because it will be discriminatory. We continue with our policy of providing equal opportunities to all our employees and give them promotion on merit.
Government and corporate have a role to play in gender balance. Pakistan has many opportunities to increase the share of women in work. We implemented a dignity of work policy in which we trained our staff to be fair and respectful to all genders.