Photograph — Above Whispers

The imminent departure of PepsiCo CEO, Indra Nooyi has again brought to the fore the need for increased opportunities and promotions for women in the workplace.

Nooyi is one of only 24 women CEO’s heading the 500 largest companies in the United States. Her successful 12-year tenure as CEO of the second largest food and beverage company in the world, and the almost $30 billion dollar increase she added to the company’s revenue made her a strong reference point in business circles.

A McKinsey study that analyzed representation in US corporations, Women in the workplace, found that despite more women earning college degrees than men for the past 30 years, female employees were under-represented and under-promoted, accounting for only 18% of high-level executives in senior management roles, of which only 3 percent are women of color.

Female CEOs in Africa

At 23 percent, Africa alongside the United States, is the top performing region for women in executive-level positions, exceeding the global average of 20 percent.  Yet, according to McKinsey’s Women In Africa report, only 5 percent of women make it to CEO level. These figures perhaps show that the continent is far from achieving gender equality in the workplace.

However, many companies are making gender equity in the workplace a company policy. An example is Nestlé, the world’s largest food and beverage company, which has committed to enhance gender balance among its workforce and empower women across its entire value chain by 2020.

According to Sonia Studer, Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Nestlé, 30 percent of women in Nestlé hold market-related, senior leadership roles, while 37.5 percent are in management positions worldwide.

Nestlé recently appointed Freda Duplan, the first African woman to hold the position of Market Head in the multinational.  She will be leading Nestlé’s Pakistan business; an exemplary feat in a country with one of the lowest rankings on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap index, and only 3 percent of women in management positions according to the International Labor Organization’s Women in Business and Management Report.

Throughout her career, Duplan has steadily paved the way for women to access management positions in the company: she was the first woman to be Ghana’s National Sales Manager, the first Head of Nestlé Business Services in Africa, and the first woman to be a Country Manager in Central and West Africa.

The company has developed a comprehensive diversity and inclusion plan to closely monitor gender balance progress, the plan includes numerous initiatives such as training to raise awareness on unconscious bias, mentoring and coaching, clear career development plans, maternity protection policy, and gender-sensitive succession planning process.

Perks of having a diverse workplace

Recent research has also shown that workplace diversity leads to better financial performance and increased business profitability by as much as 20 percent. McKinsey estimates that 12 trillion dollars can be added to global growth by advancing gender equality.

In an article Women CEOs, the Financial Times notes that women tend to be better represented in positions such as legal, human resources and finance, than in operational management jobs that lead more often to CEO positions and thus, promoting equal opportunity for women into leadership positions should begin from the recruitment stage, with companies working harder to recruit female talent.

In Central and West Africa, Nestlé is actively moving to increase the number of women in departments that traditionally hire more men. For example this year, the departments in charge of Technical (factories) and Supply Chain Management aim to hire a majority of women as graduate trainees and include at least one woman candidate in the final interview stage when hiring new talent.

The United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (SDG) and Women Empowerment Principles outlines achieving gender equality and empowerment for all women and girls; establishing high-level corporate leadership for gender equality and treating all women and men fairly at work as goals crucial to achieving prosperity for all by 2030.

Improving gender balance will also have positive impacts on future generations. Harvard Business School’s Working Mother Study report reveals that daughters of working mothers who completed more years of education, were more likely to be employed in supervisory roles; and earned higher incomes.

Hence, more awareness needs to be created around the importance of gender parity and equal opportunity in order to provide a strong platform for addressing global challenges, harnessing new opportunities and consequently advancing economic development and prosperity not only for women but for all.

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