According to the World Bank, participation by women in the workforce in Malaysia stands at 46% which is low by international standards compared to neighbouring countries, such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. What do you think are the reasons and how can organisations tackle this situation?
It is often the case that women are the ones that have to care for their children, in-laws and their own parents – and in many cases, women who are faced with family crisis often quit their jobs because they cannot cope with the demands of both work and personal life.
We cannot comment on the practices of other organisations, but here at Nestlé Malaysia we strongly advocate gender equality and currently 34% of the employees are women. We believe that by treating our employees equally, despite their gender and background, we are able to gain their trust and loyalty. We also provide numerous support for our employees, such as flexible working policies to help them manage their work and personal life.
In order to encourage more women to participate in the workforce, we suggest organisations to recruit based on merit and not gender or background, actively support more women participation at all management levels and hiring more women at entry level jobs. Over time this will increase the participation rate overall and in particular at management level.
Gender diversity has become a priority agenda item for policy makers and business leaders internationally. How can gender diversity add value to your organisation? How can it add or improve business and financial performance?
Nestlé’s success and culture are built on strong, multicultural diversity. We aim to integrate as much as possible into the cultures and traditions where we operate. And we know that our success is based on our people. We embrace cultural and social diversity across our workforce, our customers and the communities where we work. Our diversity is a critical competitive advantage we want to protect and build on for the future.
At Nestlé, we believe that a more balanced gender mix will improve management decisions. In 2008 we launched our Gender Balance Initiative, which aims to help us develop the environment, culture and leadership that gives equal opportunities for everyone, especially at management levels. From this initiative, we have achieved:
- improved the percentage of women on market leadership teams by over 35% in four years;
- developed our leadership teams worldwide to ensure managers have the awareness and capability to help us increase gender balance through the network of 60 qualified gender balance trainers;
- reviewed and updated our human resources processes;
- introduced annually reviewed local action plans for all Nestlé businesses to improve gender balance;
- published Corporate Guidelines for a Flexible Working Environment;
- set up a mentoring initiative to accelerate the professional development of 130 senior executives; and
- used talent and succession planning to increase the number of women successors to 30% in 2011.
All local operating companies are now in the implementation phase of their action plans and tracking their progress. A global network of Gender Balance Champions – business leaders acting as ambassadors – regularly shares best practice across the organisation.
Does your organisation have any policy or KPIs emphasising on female talents? What systems or tools has your organisation put in place to attract women on career hiatus to rejoin the workforce?
Nestlé is committed to gender diversity and this is one of the top 10 priorities on our strategic agenda. We also monitor the gender related KPIs very closely. We run various initiatives and policies that promote female representation at our workplace, such as having awareness training session on the Gender Balance initiatives, mentoring programme and Dual Career Network program. We also attract female employees through our flexible benefits, whereby Nestlé female employees can utilize the Flexi-Points to reimburse pregnancy related expenses, claim for childcare & children education expenses, and to utilize for personal grooming (ie. facial & spa).
Nowadays, flexible work arrangements (FWA) and support facilities are preferred by women with families. Does your organisation provide these? If yes, can you share more details? If not, can you share yours and your organisation’s view on FWA or support facilities in your organisation? If you do, which will your management team support to take-up?
At Nestlé Malaysia, we provide Flexibility Working Policy, for example, we allow employees to work from home to care for sick parent or children. We also operate flexible working hours, to enable our employees to better manage their work and personal life. In addition to that, we also offer part-time positions especially for Specialist positions (contract employment). The other support system and facilities that attract female employees are:
- Infant feeding scheme, also for the spouse of Nestlé male staff
- Nursing room/area for breast-feeding mother
- Maternity leaves up to 6 months – 3rd month 80% salary, 4th to 6th month unpaid leave
- Medical Checkup which include Mammogram and Pap Smear for age 40 and above employee.
What do you think are the key factors to encourage women to aspire to leadership and climb the career ladder? Can you share tools or systems that you have implemented successfully in-house that cater to leadership in women?
We believe that the key factors to encourage women to aspire to leadership and climb the career ladder are as follows:
- Equal opportunity in promotion and upgrading system which is based purely on competency level and performance of the individual
- Flexible working hours and also by providing necessary tools to work away from the office e.g.home.
Some of the tools and systems that we implement in-house that cater to women in leadership roles; include the following KPIs to enable us to monitor progress in gender diversity:
- % women in management positions
- % women in Senior Management position
- % women in talent pool
- % women in succession plan
- % women holder key position
And importantly, role models of successful women are a powerful tool to encourage more young women in our organization aspire and work towards reaching senior management positions.
On the other hand, there are companies that have equal opportunity tools and systems in place. Despite these, barriers to opportunity may still exist due to women’s own issues and biases, for example lack of confidence to compete together with men for job progressions and opportunities, or their impression that men will be favoured or chosen to lead. How does your organisation manage or dismantle these barriers? What can we do together to address this?
- Nestlé Malaysia manages these barriers through:
- Unbiased promotion or upgrading which is purely based on competencies level and performance level.
- Equal opportunity in applications
- Development programs to help build the level of confidence, self esteem and motivation at work
Our government has implemented policies and even provided funds and assistance to organisations in order to retain and call back women to re-join the workforce. In line with this objective, our PM has announced the Double Tax Incentive for compliant companies which will be launched in 2013, fund allocation and assistance for child care centres at organisations, a microsite to connect women with companies that have jobs with flexible work arrangements and support facilities, and other incentives are in the pipeline. What else can the government do to encourage companies to attract and retain women in the workforce?
Most of the work needs to be done within organisations. The government can support the efforts of the private sector by leading through example, promoting more capable women to senior positions.