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8 leaders in Asia share how they are embracing equality and equity at the workplace

8 leaders in Asia share how they are embracing equality and equity at the workplace


Be it through education programmes, or policies that apply to all staff regardless of their background or demographics, let's hear what leaders from Hilton, Telstra, Love, Bonito, and more have to say.

As a leader, do you find it necessary to embrace the concepts of both equity and equality at the workplace? How are you finding this balance at your workplace?

These are questions that got us at HRO thinking about how much the workplace of today has evolved to one where more leaders are standing up and taking charge of building a workplace that drives equity, and where every employee has access to equal opportunities. 

With this in mind, and in line with International Women's Day (IWD) coming up on 8 March, we set out to hear from leaders across the region on the relationship between equity and equality, and how they can embrace both synergistically, while making sure not to neglect either in their role.

In this special feature, we speak to leaders from HERE Technologies, Citi, ZALORA, Boehringer Ingelheim, and more.

This article is the first of a series we are running around the theme of #EmbraceEquity, so be sure to keep a lookout for more in the coming weeks!

Shylaja Bhat, Director HR Business Partner – Platform Foundation, HERE Technologies

shylaja bhat here1

At HERE Technologies, everyone is a leader – our processes and practices are built around the philosophy of being an equal-opportunity employer. Our people leaders are often encouraged and reminded through formal, and informal programmes to provide everyone with equal opportunities and access. This applies to everything we do, including learning and development, mentorship, and upskilling and training programmes. Equality is a principle embedded as a solid foundation at HERE.

On the other hand, our underlying philosophy connected to the concept of equity is to ‘treat employees the way they want themselves to be treated’. Recognising diverse needs while maintaining fairness and objectivity is a balance HERE strives for to deliver an unbiased and equitable working culture. Our annual employee (Pulse) engagement survey champions diversity of thought and allows for everyone’s opinions to count. It’s how we identify the areas where we are performing well and where we need to improve – from company-wide down to team-level topics.

Chelsea Perino, Managing Director, Global Marketing & Communications, The Executive Centre

chelsea perino tec managing director global marketing communications

Equality isn’t a new theme – people across the world have been fighting for the right to equal opportunities for generations. But access to the same resources isn’t enough. Equity takes this important discussion a step further because it is deeply personalised. Equity recognises that each individual comes from different circumstances thus the path to reach an equal outcome on an individual level is not the same.

Everyone requires support in different ways to feel they're working on an equal playing field. As leaders, we must take the time to get to know all our people, and to provide an environment that empowers each of them to make choices that are right for them personally, not just for the team or the organisation. Education and programming, especially for senior management, is essential for ensuring that diversity, equity and inclusion isn't just an agenda item to tick off, but is an integral part of every organisation's business strategy.

Alice Ting, Managing Director of Hong Kong, Telstra

alice ting telstra

Equity and equality are both extremely important in the workplace. At Telstra, for example, we strive for equity by providing accessibility support for colleagues with disabilities and flexible working models for all employees. We recruit, develop, promote and pay our people in a way that supports our commitment to being diverse and inclusive.

Gender pay equity continues to be a key area of focus. We consistently assess our conduct to avoid any bias in performance, assessment and remuneration decisions.

Telstra promotes equal opportunities for all backgrounds -- be it ages, beliefs, ethnicities or gender orientations. We make diversity part of our everyday conversations to set an example and lead the telecoms industry towards an equity-based and inclusive community.

Lisa Askwith, Chief People Officer, Love, Bonito

lisa askwith chief people officer

Love, Bonito is a global purpose-driven brand that aims to empower the everyday Asian women, in and beyond fashion. We are committed to creating a fair and inclusive environment for employees to thrive.

This vision is brought to life by our values and supported by our policies, ranging from recruitment processes and employee benefits such as tailored coaching services, to opportunities for career development and special projects. Hence we recognise that to really get the balance between equity and equality right, we need to temper it against reality, and be able to be flexible to life circumstances. Our policies are applicable to all staff*, regardless of one’s gender, age, race, or any other discriminatory factors.

We proactively cater to employee needs through various seasons of their lives. Employees can enjoy more flexibility in work hours with our work-from-anywhere policy and other special arrangements, such as staggered returns to work post-maternity, post illness or any other significant personal events.

We are proud to pave the way in promoting equality and equity for our employees, partners and communities, by constantly assessing the balance and ensuring we have our diverse people needs at the front of our decision-making processes.

*This includes all full-time and part-time office and retail staff, and contract roles. 

Devayani Tilak Sengupta, Head of Talent, Learning and Diversity, Asia Pacific, Citi

devayani sengupta

Equity and equality are both critical to creating a workplace where diverse talent at different levels of the firm have the opportunities to grow and progress in their careers.

Citi is committed to fully embracing the diversity of our colleague base, including the talents of women as well as racial and ethnic minorities. A key part of this is achieving pay equity across the firm. Citi was one of the first banks to disclose our unadjusted or raw pay gaps for women globally and we continue to progress in this area by working towards our gender representation goals across the assistant vice president to managing director levels.

Within the firm, our learning programmes, resources, and mentorship support are accessible to all employees, providing equal access to platforms that can be leveraged for ongoing learning and career development.

Together, our focus on equity and inclusion is helping us create a culture where all employees can bring their authentic selves to work.

David Serés, Human Resources Director, ASKAN, Boehringer Ingelheim

david serés

Equity and equality are seemingly similar concepts and may be perceived as confusing. Equity is about removing barriers or providing support for everyone’s needs, while equality refers to the same level of opportunities for everyone, regardless of background.

Both concepts are relevant and interconnected at Boehringer Ingelheim. Everyone deserves the opportunity to unleash their full potential and we work hard to ensure there are no barriers preventing this.

We are fair in ensuring our career progression and talent acquisition processes are transparent and robust, with no tolerance for biases and cliches. We are committed to enabling development throughout the different employee life cycle stages and to support as needed.

As a leader, constantly listening and taking action is how we use equity to ensure equality. By understanding employees’ needs, we curate learning pathways and provide opportunities to nurture professional and personal development for the employee.

Louise Pender, General Counsel and Chief People Officer, ZALORA Group

louise pender chief people officer of zalora group 4

ZALORA’s culture is founded upon the way it embraces and cares for its People. Our approach to our People is based on inclusivity, fairness, and creating a level playing field for all. As part of our commitment to our People, we have developed our diversity, inclusion and belonging strategy to help us ensure we are creating a truly diverse and inclusive culture founded upon respect for each other, and empowering authentic self-expression in the workplace.

We are taking a very intentional approach to fostering fairness and creating an equal playing field, starting with the tone from the top, but also by implementing specific initiatives focused on creating awareness, reviewing our ways of working to reduce unconscious bias, and measuring our progress both from a quantitative and qualitative perspective.

Patsy Ng, Vice President for Human Resources - Asia Pacific, Hilton

patsy ng

Striking a balance between equality and equity is necessary in creating a truly diverse, equitable & inclusive workplace. We operate in a complex environment where equal opportunity for progression is impacted by a myriad of factors including unconscious or institutionalised bias driven by cultural nuances and social expectations, among others.

At Hilton, we are committed to helping our team members achieve their fullest potential through comprehensive developmental programmes available to all. One of our key focus areas is to achieve gender parity across all levels. We invest in resources targeted at removing barriers to success and provide a welcoming and equitable workplace to help our team members thrive and create progression opportunities for our female team members in APAC.

We are proud to have achieved great strides toward female leadership representation - our highly diverse APAC Executive Leadership is made up of 50% women across six nationalities, and we have quadrupled the percentage of female hotel general managers in APAC in the last few years.

Photos / Provided

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