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Tilting the scales

How we are working to advance gender equality in the workplace
Nilufer Demirkol  

By Nilufer Demirkol, Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion

Does celebrating International Women’s Day in 2020 strike you as strangely out of place? After all, did the Charter of the United Nations not affirm the principle of equality between women and men exactly 75 years ago – in 1945?

The reality is that we still have some way to go before full equality between men and women is achieved. In some places, women do not enjoy the same rights as men. Even in countries considered more advanced, inequalities still exist.

It is therefore important that we continue to celebrate International Women’s Day to take stock of the progress made so far – but more importantly to shed light on the gaps that need filling.

Nestlé Gender Balance Acceleration Plan

Last year, we marked International Women’s Day by announcing the launch of our Nestlé Gender Balance Acceleration Plan, with a stated objective to increase the number of women in senior executive positions globally – from around 20% then to 30% by the end of 2022.

To be sure, our efforts to make Nestlé more gender-balanced extend to well before the launch of our Nestlé Gender Balance Acceleration Plan – our commitment to providing equal opportunities for everyone at the company is a long-standing one.

Regardless, making this commitment public was a way to show that we are willing to set ourselves accountable – by setting goals that are time-bound and easily measurable. Ever since, we have stepped up our efforts, with a focus on creating the conditions that will allow us to build a female talent pipeline at all levels of the organization.

Fighting bias

One of the ways to do this is to ensure that we provide a level-playing field for men and women in the organization – we want people on both sides of the gender spectrum to be given equal opportunities and to be judged on their merits.

We are continuing with the rollout of our Unconscious Bias training. These training programs prove a formidable tool to raise awareness about – and ultimately uproot – some of the deeply ingrained attitudes that shape everyday decisions and that can lead, for instance, a manager to promote a man instead of a woman for the wrong reasons. We plan to extend that training to all of our managers by the end of 2020.

We are committed to providing equal advancement opportunities but also to compensate all of our talents fairly. In 2019, we have deployed an Equal Pay Analysis in thirty five markets – the first stage of a broader rollout. In few instances where gaps have been identified, we have taken corrective measures.

Challenging stereotypes

We have launched a new, more generous gender-neutral Nestlé Global Parental Support Policy that challenges stereotypes. The policy was designed with inclusion in mind – it aims to provide the same benefits to all parents. We have designed and rolled out this new policy out of the conviction that parental responsibilities can no longer solely be defined along traditional gender lines.

We have also started to roll out our Corporate Mentoring Program, giving mentees the opportunity to seek guidance from more seasoned peers to achieve their career goals. While our Corporate Mentoring program is open to all, 70% of participants have been women. This helps us to build a pipeline of high-potential women for senior executive positions.

Continuing on our journey

Of course, much still needs to be accomplished – but things are clearly improving and moving in the right direction.

This year we were again included in the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index, which recognizes companies showing a tangible commitment to gender equality – companies that do not just say the right thing, but also act on it. Our efforts to empower women across our supply chain has been recognized in the 2019 Leading Women Awards, too.

The task may seem daunting but, as the saying goes, anything is possible if we set our minds to it – which we clearly have. Throughout my career, I have witnessed progress even in countries where change was deemed extremely difficult.

The key is to get everyone’s buy-in – we need everyone throughout the organization to rally behind gender balance and to genuinely appreciate its strategic dimension.

If not, gender balance will remain an elusive goal. And we will still be celebrating International Women’s Day for decades to come – for the wrong reasons.