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Sustaining gender equality in work place

By Yetunde Ebosele
16 February 2015   |   11:00 pm
  RENEWED clamour for gender equality especially in the work place is gathering sustained momentum in different spheres of the global economy. From politics to economy, engineering, academic, among others, women are making significant contributions to the growth and development of societies.     A new study conducted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) Bureau…


RENEWED clamour for gender equality especially in the work place is gathering sustained momentum in different spheres of the global economy.

From politics to economy, engineering, academic, among others, women are making significant contributions to the growth and development of societies.

    A new study conducted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) Bureau for Employers’ Activities entitled ‘Women in Business and Management: Gaining’, explained that global momentum means more women move into management positions.

    Indeed, it was also a glorious day recently for senior Lafarge Group’s executives from Nigeria, Spain, Brazil and France when they were honoured in recognition for their work on diversity and inclusion..

For the senior Lafarge Group’s executives, who gathered in France at the Assemblée National (French National Assembly) for the Gender Equality European/International Standard (GEEIS) Awards, it was a dream come true.

    Country Organization and Human Resources Director, Fidelia Osime,  who received the award for Nigeria said: “For us in Lafarge Africa Plc, it is indeed a significant achievement as we are the first company in Africa to be so recognized having been audited on a number of criteria”.

     According to available information, out of the 12 members of Lafarge Africa Plc’s top management team, four are women – one of them being the recently appointed Managing Director of WAPCO operations, Adepeju Adebajo.

Others are Fidelia Osime, Country Organization & Human Resources Director, Edith Onwuchekwa, Country Legal Counsel and Viola Graham Douglas, Country Communication Director.

     The company said: “The combined wealth of experience and exposure of these amazons is without a doubt an undisputable asset to the Lafarge family and a justification of the corporate policy of diversity and inclusion. This representation does not stop at the directorial level of the company but permeates across board and in key middle management roles, where women feature prominently and contribute actively to the overall success rating of the company”.

    Senior Vice-President, Talent Management Lafarge Group, Sonia D’Emilio, described the awards as something all the recipients should be proud of.

She said: “We have made significant investments in our diversity and inclusion programmes across all our business units and have recorded positive results. This award will serve to further encourage us in our plans to execute more initiatives focused on gender equality in our business.”

    Lafarge Group has repeatedly preached the gospel of gender inclusion and  has consistently made a business case for increasing the number of women in senior management positions, adding that a  widely held opinion is that companies benefit from access to the different but complementary leadership skills and insights women bring to management, as well as a wider talent pool. “Indeed, a research shows stronger financial performance at companies with a greater proportion of women on executive committees, position supported by the McKinsey’s early women matter research largely focused on Europe and the United States,” Lafarge added

    Available information indicates that there is a proven link between the presence of women in senior management positions and the strength of companies’ financial performance.

    “In Nigeria, despite the large proportion of female graduates and the significant numbers who join various companies at entry level, very few reach the top. across  board, women do not feature prominently on the decision making end of life in Nigeria. With only 25 of 360 lawmakers at the Federal House of Representatives and only four per cent of local councilors being women, the ratios are no higher in corporate Nigeria.

    “The question, of course, is how individual companies make a conscious effort to raise gender diversity in senior management. To this end, Lafarge Africa Plc has in line with its sustainability ambitions 2020, responded to these challenges in a way that looks optimistically to the future.

    “The tenets of these ambitions include the belief that diversity in employees, teams and management is an essential factor in achieving a high level of performance and innovation. This specific focus on employee diversity and skills development, regardless of gender, nationality, colour or religion, ensures that Lafarge as a group uses every asset at its disposal to achieve set targets”.

Increasing the number of women in senior management positions up to 35percent by 2020 is a corporate target, which as at 2013 had reached 18.6 percent of top management, through the acceleration of the identification of women capable of engaging in career development and occupying leadership positions.

      At Group level, according to Lafarge, support is given to programmes and initiatives that seek the development of employee skills and key positions and are covered by certification programmes and individual development programmes and training, pointing out that Employees are encouraged to be involved in development, implementation and compliance with leading standards in developing a creative mindset, “so, their diversity may become a force for innovation and performance”.

The Company said its inclusive culture is defined as supporting a work environment that values diversity, where all employees are encouraged to share new ideas and innovations, and where equal opportunities exist for professional growth and development.

    Lafarge said a Diversity & Inclusion committee which includes representatives from Human Resources, Operations and Communications meets monthly, developing strategies and action plans to ensure that these goals are met in a fair and above board manner, “thus ensuring that only credible candidates are chosen to fill these roles while making sure that the sustainability of the business is the main focus”.

    To attain the set goals, the company said Leadership and Gender Workshops were held across in the various business units and locations and thought provoking workshops that introduce diversity concepts and examines gender differences and their effects on business relationships, communications and decision making are organized to guarantee participants generate specific local actions to improve diversity.

Meanwhile, it explained that on-going diversity training helps drive employee engagement and creates a work environment that visibly values and leverages diversity.

     Lafarge Africa, according to available information has expanded this culture of diversity through its recruitment initiatives; partnering with a number of diversity focused companies and associations to ensure Lafarge has tapped the largest possible pool of candidates.

     “Some other initiatives introduced by the cement giant in Nigeria to support diversity and inclusion include the activation of Women’s Networking Groups, flexible work hours in the corporate head office, supporting nursing mothers with crèche allowance, provision of paternity leave, and exclusion of maternity leave from annual leave entitlement.

    “The organization’s search for diverse talent at all levels informs the strong ties that the Lafarge Friends of Community (FOC) mentorship initiative has with public primary and secondary schools targeted at contributing to the development of young talents, seeking out and discovering them long before they get to the recruiters table.

      “The barriers to success are many, not least among them the prevailing cultural beliefs and biases. The Lafarge Africa approach to overcoming these biases that may hinder the success of hiring, retaining, and promoting more talented women—and seizing the associated business opportunity—nothing less than the full commitment of the Chief Executive Officer and his senior management team will suffice.

     “However, the reality of life is not lost on Lafarge Africa Plc for these amazons. Without coming across as favoritism; a work/life balance is struck that ensures that every member of staff, both male and female are given the time, opportunity and means to attain their personal life goals and career aspirations”.

     According to ILO’s  ‘Women in Business and Management: Gaining’, in 80 of the 108 countries for which ILO data is available, the proportion of women managers has increased during this period. 

       The Director of the ILO Bureau for Employers’ Activities, Deborah France-Massin, said: “Our research is showing that women’s ever increasing participation in the labour market has been the biggest engine of global growth and competitiveness. Women’s ever increasing participation in the labour market has been the biggest engine of global growth and competitiveness. 

     “An increasing number of studies are also demonstrating positive links between women’s participation in top decision making teams and structures and business performance. But there is a long way to go before we achieve true gender equality in the workplace, especially when it comes to top management positions.” 

       The report further noted that only five per cent or less of the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of the world’s largest corporations are women and also that the larger the company, the less likely the head will be a woman.

     The report found that all-male company boards are still common but are decreasing in number, with women attaining 20 per cent or more of all board seats in a handful of countries. A global survey quoted in the study shows that Norway has the highest global proportion of companies (13.3 per cent) with a woman as company board chairperson, followed by Turkey (11.1 per cent). 

    France-Massin explained: “It is critical for more women to reach senior management positions in strategic areas to build a pool of potential candidates for top jobs such as CEO or company presidents. However, ‘glass walls’ still exist with the concentration of women in certain types of management functions like HR, communications and administration.” 

      Today, women own and manage over 30 per cent of all businesses, but they are more likely to be found in micro and small enterprises. Getting more women to grow their businesses is not only critical for equality but also for national development, underlines the report.

      The report provides statistics on women in management and in business for most countries from all regions and at all levels of development. It also contains data on the gender pay gap at management and lower levels, as well as statistics on women’s achievements in education. 

It identifies the growing momentum building around the world to advance women to higher levels of management and lists a selection of the numerous initiatives from various sectors.

       The report highlighted the need to find flexible solutions for work and family. 

The report also provides the following recommendations to close the remaining gender gap: seeking “flexible solutions” to manage work and family time commitments as an alternative to being subject to special treatment or quotas; providing maternity protection coverage and childcare support can bring added value to the company through the recruitment and retention of talented women; “changing mind-sets” to break cultural barriers and fight sexual harassment; addressing the so-called “leaky pipeline” whereby women fall behind despite their high level of education; implementing gender-sensitive human resources policies and measures; making sure women are given as challenging tasks as men from the very beginning of their career.

       The authors underline that women and girls receive almost half of all educational resources, thus representing a significant proportion of the available talent pool. Therefore, companies’ investment in attracting, retaining and promoting skilled women is likely to be good for business. 

The report said national employers’ organizations could play a major role in increasing awareness of the business case for appointing women in leadership roles. 

       “Unless action is taken, it could take 100 to 200 years to achieve parity at the top. It is time to smash the glass ceiling for good to avoid controversial mandatory quotas that are not always necessary or effective. Having women in top positions is simply good for business,” France-Massin submitted. 

       According to the report, Jamaica has the highest proportion of women managers at 59.3 per cent, while Yemen has the least with 2.1 per cent. The US is 15th in the list of 108 countries with 42.7 per cent women managers, the UK 41st (34.2 per cent) and the Russian Federation holds the 25th place (39.1 per cent). 

In Africa, Ghana occupies 26th place with 39 per cent, followed by Botswana ranking 28th (38.6 per cent). In Asia, the highest-ranking country is the Philippines in 4th place (47.6 per cent), followed by Mongolia with 41.9 per cent in 17th place. With 53.1 per cent, Colombia holds the second place at the global level and ranks first in Latin America, followed by Panama in fifth place (47.4 per cent).

       The report presents the findings of a 2013 ILO survey of over 1,200 companies in Africa, Asia and Pacific, Eastern and Central Europe and Latin American and the Caribbean, focusing on measures and initiatives to advance women in management. The survey was carried out with the assistance of national employers’ organizations in 39 countries.

       Providing the Nigeria experience, former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Dr Timiebi Koripamo-Agary, said Nigeria has indeed made giant stride in appointing women into key positions. 

      Her words: “I can say that Nigeria has done very well in appointing women into key positions. When I came into the ministry between 2003 and 2004, women headed all the seven departments in the ministry. This may be partly influenced by the fact that men never liked the ministry because they claimed there was no money there. Of course there may not be money in that ministry, but some of us who passed through there are using the experiences we got there even after leaving service.” 

        Dr Koripamo-Agary opined that the reason women tend to perform better in position of authority may not be unconnected to their shrewdness in resource management and empathy they show their co-workers.

“I think we perform better when in position of authority because of the way we manage resources and empathy shown to colleagues. We show we can understand with our colleagues when they are passing through some difficult patches in their lives. These empathies, most times, proved to be magic wand that propels workers to give more than their best. It gives them confidence that they are not alone in their family and personal struggles which then translates to an improved productivity. Women are also more restrained and there is less greed among womenfolk when managing resources. Even though it could be cumbersome working with men at times because they like to show their strength, with determination and confidence, women have been able to show that they are no push overs in management matters and this also enhances their efficiency,” she said. 

      Reacting to the report, Women leader, Trade Union Congress (TUC), Oyimkan Olasanoye, described the development as timely, adding that women are better managers because of what she identified as ‘gentle nature’ of women.

Speaking with The Guardian, she explained that women can be trusted and can easily rally support and mobilize people for development projects.

       According to her, women bring to bear their gifts of managing home to leadership position.

Speaking in a similar vein, women activist, Mrs. Olubunmi F. Oladoyinbo, said women are better managers of scarce resources.

      Oladoyinbo said: “The only way to attain sustainable progress is for men and women to operate on an equal basis especially in politics and in the work place”.

She added: “We must do everything possible to create a level playing field. All obstacles to the emancipation of women either in politics or in the work place must be removed. That is the only way to make progress”.

Oladoyinbo also used the opportunity to appeal to corporate organizations and relevant government agencies to stop the habits of reserving some positions for men, adding that it is counter-productive.