How working in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiatives helped me look at work life differently
My journey as the Consumer Foods sector coordinator for Diversity, Equity & Inclusivity (DE&I) began when the Sector Representative of the Group’s DE & I Initiative approached me and asked whether I would like to be a part of the project team that identifies issues which females face in different companies and industries within the Group. It was a fascinating project to be a part of, especially, since I come from a research background of handling employee and customer stakeholder studies and given that I have a preference towards human resources and cultural related studies – this seemed like an interesting venture.
A Group-wide survey was launched internally in order to have an initial understanding and identify the cultural issues faced in different Sectors and recognize issues pertaining to unconscious bias experienced by both male and female staff. This was quite a challenging task, since surveys of this nature are generally carried out by an external party, and I was not too familiar with carrying out internal surveys of this magnitude. However, with the support of the Group DE&I Representatives and Group IT, the team was able to launch an online survey and generate actionable insights for each Sector which identifies the cultural barriers faced in establishing a workforce with gender parity.
Subsequently, the Consumer Foods Sector had set targets and action plans to increase female participation in the Sector workforce. The business of manufacturing and distributing Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) is a heavily male skewed industry due to the nature of the job roles in which it entails. Therefore, setting targets for a workforce with gender parity for the next ten (10) years was quite challenging. It was made very clear from the initial stages that educating the employees on the importance of achieving gender parity and the benefits the business can gain thereof was key in achieving any progress on the identified targets. To this end, we invited DE & I experts from a leading FMCG company, who have managed to increase female participation in their organization. We took their learnings to identify challenges and tailored solutions to increase females’ participation in the workforce in the Sector. The Consumer Foods Sector officially launched the Sector DE & I campaign in September 2021, by way of a weeklong awareness campaign on what is DE & I, its importance, Group’s ONE JKH policy and how to tackle unconscious bias. We have also set up a team of DE & I Sector Champs who are working on increasing female participation on non-traditional job roles and supporting to the journey towards making the Sector a more inclusive and diverse one in terms of its workforce.
More recently, I was given the opportunity to lead “Dinannee” – a female empowerment programme initiated by the Ice Cream Team to empower females who participate in the value chain of the distribution of Ice Creams. The programme encourages females to participate in the selling and distribution of Ice Cream in terms of joining the sales staff; as pushcart, three-wheeler operators, distributors and parlor outlet owners. This programme has helped me to understand the importance of empowering females outside the company to uplift their living standards, ultimately ensuring better quality of life for their families.
There have been several elements common to both these programmes which has led to their success, as well as ensured that it was a fulfilling experience to me. I have been blessed with inspiring mentors and a team that provide innumerable support to ensure the success of these programmes. My mentors have always guided me and empowered me to take necessary decisions in order to accomplish tasks. It has helped me to grow as an individual, not being afraid to take on tasks outside my core role and my comfort zone and get to know different functionalities such as marketing, communication and human resources, dealing with diverse set of individuals and improve on my leadership skills.
I believe that having a diverse work culture and workforce that celebrates differences in people, helps to understand life at a broader sense, and paves way for a more productive environment which incorporates synergy in the business.
Looking at the ways that the Consumer Foods Sector empowers female staff and the lengths it would go to drive female empowerment within the Sector in order to increase female participation in the workforce and in the supply chain, motivates me as a female to take on more responsibilities and contribute more towards reaching gender parity targets set for the Sector.