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Former chief of staff for Michelle Obama, Tina Tchen, on gender diversity



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Following up on the launch of its global initiative #WeSeeEqual in 2017, P&G hosted the inaugural #WeSeeEqual Symposium in Singapore on 2 April as part of its efforts to drive gender equality.

Attended by Human Resources, the keynote was made by Tina Tchen, former White House director for Women and Girls, former chief of staff for Michelle Obama, and currently legal counsel for Time’s Up Movement.

With her keynote on leading change to empower women, Tchen highlighted some things organisations can do for sustainable change and progress in the future. These include:

Boundless workplaces for all requires a holistic approach
– Sexual harassment is the symptom of workplaces that are not equitable and safe.
– Structural barriers must be addressed – e.g. equal pay, paid leave, flexible scheduling, fair hiring, promotion, and retention practices.

Tone and responsibility at the top matters
– C-Suite leaders need to be involved and have ownership – not just HR.
– There needs to be regular, rigorous review and accountability.

Equitable and inclusive workplaces go beyond the legal requirements
– Existing law is limited
– Employees who speak up should be protected against retaliation
– Must address problem behaviours that are not covered by law

In a media session following her presentation, when asked how leaders and even middle managers should be held accountable, Tchen told Human Resources: “It has to start at the top so that people understand that this is what the top people in the organisation want before it is filtered down.

“Middle managers are tough – data shows that a lot of good intentions die at middle management so it takes a lot from the top to ensure that it is followed through.”

To that, Magesvaran Suranjan, president of P&G Asia Pacific and P&G India, Middle East and Africa, added: “The easier part is to set objectives in a certain time frame. But it is in the important details that I find we can make the greatest progress.”

Suranjan went on to give an example of how he advises the P&G leadership team to let employees going on maternity leave know what their role will be when they are back.

“That allows the person to be fully focused on being a new mother and when they come back, they are fully on without wondering what role they are doing – whether it is a smaller role or a lateral role,” he explained.

In fact, he revealed that the company often promote women coming in from maternity leave. “I don’t believe that just because one is going on maternity leave, one has to come back and prove oneself.”

He further elaborated that it is because of P&G’s belief in promoting from within that they are able to do so, adding: “We see a person over a lifetime so I don’t need to look at their last three months or last six months. We know who is ready from a skills and experience standpoint and we need to support them in their life stages in order to not lose this priceless talent that we have nurtured for five, seven, 10 or 15 years.”

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