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#BalanceForBetter: Equal pay for equal work, meritocracy approach, and more

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Ensuring equal pay for equal work, taking a meritocracy approach, and working with TAFEP in the Fair@Work Promise initiative are just some of the ways in which organisations are forging gender equality at the workplace.

In this 13th part of our series, we showcase the call-to-action of 10 organisations in ensuring gender equality at the workplace.

Organisations featured include: DSM, Everise, F5 Networks, Fitness First Singapore, LEWIS, Manulife Singapore, Philip Morris International, Starbucks, Tata Communications, and Zendesk.

Read on to see how these organisations are helping to #BalanceForBetter.


Sara Surer-Geiser, Vice President, P&O Nutrition Asia and Regional Vice President, HR EMEA, DSM

At DSM, we believe that an inclusive & diverse workforce is a pre-requisite to delivering our purpose-lead and performance driven goals. Diversity in perspective, background and style is fostering innovative thinking, allowing us to attract the best people and ultimately resulting in accelerated growth for the company.

The significance of inclusiveness and diversity and therefore gender equality is clearly recognised by our senior management, with Inclusion being one of three key values anchored in our DSM Culture and measured with related KPIs. The key focus areas relate to growing an inclusive culture and raising awareness of unconscious bias. These key themes are included in the organisation’s leadership programs across all hierarchical levels but also addressed in specific workshops around inclusion.

In addition, DSM has introduced a global Inclusion & Diversity Council, consisting of business, function and regional leaders with a passion to further drive the company’s inclusion and diversity agenda.


Sheena Ponnappan, Chief People Officer, Everise

Everise has over 12,000 employees around the world from the US and Europe to Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. No matter where we are, we strive to ensure our offices are welcoming to men and women of all cultures, races and religions. We are very proud that a significant portion of not only our overall workforce, but our senior and executive leadership team members are women.

As a global organisation, we spotlight every new hire and promotion to showcase our diversity because we take pride in our hiring choices, particularly focused on gender equality. Some of our best practices to challenge gender stereotypes and forge gender equality involve expanding our candidate pool, eliminating unconscious bias, making sure all employees have access to internal opportunities, minimising gender pay gap, practising social inclusion and addressing work/life balance issues.


Grace Cheong, Vice-President, HR, Asia-Pacific and Japan, F5 Networks

At F5, we believe that diversity and inclusion in teams increases creativity, innovation and stronger performances, as well as drive higher quality decisions. As one of the three global partners of International Women’s Day 2019, F5 commits to building a more inclusive workforce through three strategic efforts:

  • Building leadership awareness – F5 believes that with gender diversity among senior leadership, we can outperform competitors. All board leaders are trained to understand and cascade to employees the benefits of gender equality.
  • Employee Inclusion Groups (EIG) – while International Women’s Day is about women, F5 wants to be more inclusive of multiple groups and uses the pilot of 4 EIGs (Women, Military Veterans, Multi-Cultural and LGBT) to drive greater inclusion and growth.
  • Internal talent practices – F5 sources talent from diverse backgrounds, regularly reviews maternity and paternity leave, and accelerates early career high-potential diverse talent through development opportunities. This helps promote a balance between career and family, and enables employees to enjoy both benefits, without having to sacrifice either.

Eric Goh, Human Resource Manager, Fitness First Singapore

At Fitness First, we place great emphasis in maintaining a fair, inclusive and diverse workplace. Men and women are equally represented both in the organisation’s leadership team – with three out of seven of our executive committee roles held by women – as well as our overall workforce, with almost half (46%) female. We ensure a gender neutral and inclusive hiring process, evaluating candidates based on their suitability for the role, regardless of background, nationality, race and gender.

All employees have access to the same career development opportunities, and their remuneration and benefits are based on their job role and grade. By the end of this year, employees with standard working hours will also be able to enjoy a Flexi Work arrangement. Supporting our employees’ personal commitments outside of work, this will provide them with the flexibility to report to work at staggered timings.


Jennifer Wu, VP, APAC Talent & Operations at LEWIS

LEWIS has always championed a meritocracy approach. This allows us to always identify the best person for the role which actually leads us to have the ability to always drive gender balance within our organisation. LEWIS embeds within the recruitment process the ability to identify our core values to ensure we find the right person for the role we are hiring for.

This same principle applies to our training and development program; talent reviews; promoting star performers to excel in bigger remit roles. LEWIS gives opportunities to individuals in the organisation who not only excel day to day, but embody our LEWIS values. One cannot do without the other.

It you look across the regional leadership team here in APAC, it is clear that by taking this “best person for the role” approach has ensured LEWIS enables gender balance. So don’t over-complicate it and focus on the best person for the job!


Angie Ng, Chief Human Resources Officer, Manulife Singapore

Manulife is proud to foster a working environment where employees feel accepted, valued and included. We believe no one should have to choose between being who you are and doing what you love. Globally, we have been recognised on the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index (GEI), and in Singapore, 50% of leaders in the management team are women. It’s a journey towards a gender-balanced world, unconscious biases are still present and we are putting policies and programmes in place to even the playing field.

Family-friendly policies have been implemented with the aim of empowering and enabling working parents to transition through life stages. Unconscious bias training has been delivered to all levels of employees. We have an active internal women’s network known as the Global Women’s Alliance and a growing internal Male Allies network that are committed to supporting women development, promoting gender equity, challenging gender stereotypes and calling out bias.

Our hope is to transform the mindset of every individual at Manulife, and influence them towards championing a gender-balanced future beyond the workplace.


Stacey Kennedy, President South & Southeast Asia, Philip Morris International

Equal pay for equal work among men and women is the baseline measure of equality and an essential building block for creating a more inclusive, gender –balanced workplace.

Unfortunately, pay equity is not something we can take for granted and is still not the reality for many women in the world today.

More than just stating our commitment, at PMI we want a credible, independent confirmation that our pay practices match our good intentions everywhere we operate worldwide. We’ve recently obtained the Global EQUAL-SALARY Certification – which is a first for any international company. This demonstrates PMIs commitment to equality.

Intent is important but you need to put your money where your mouth is to get results.


Celestina Lee, Director of Partner Resources, Starbucks

Starbucks takes pride in inspiring and nurturing the human spirit and aspire to be a place of inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility. Ensuring gender equality at Starbucks, therefore, lies at the heart of our company’s culture. We’ve rolled out a number of industry-leading initiatives over the years to help us fulfil that mission and achieve our vision.

In Singapore, we work with TAFEP in the Fair@Work Promise initiative. We see this as a natural extension of our core values. We value building an inclusive work environment, cultivating cultural competency with leaders, and integrating diversity throughout our core business practices. Our company-wide efforts to embrace diversity encompass our workplace, our suppliers and our communities.

We have also introduced initiatives like flexi-hours, allowing our partners (employees) the flexibility to start work earlier or later to cater to their family schedules. We have an infinite leave progression, introduced family care leave and coffee breaks to expand the efficacy of our annual leave benefit, as well as a implemented a work from home policy.

Here’s a little fun fact we’d like to share, more than 65% of our managerial positions at Starbucks Singapore are held by women.


Aadesh Goyal, Chief Human Resource Officer, Tata Communications

Today, diversity is key to creating a culture in which employees can thrive. We know that investing in people creates engaged, dedicated employees who actively go the extra mile for their clients – a quality they have come to expect. In 2017, we launched the Global Caregiving Policy with enhanced support for primary and secondary caregivers – the goal being to provide employees, both male and female, with significantly enhanced opportunity for family care. We also have flexible working hours policy that enable employees to manage work-life balance.

Additionally, we are leveraging the power of AI for our internal business transformation. As an equal opportunity employer, we have placed a magnifying glass on our recruitment process and implemented an AI-enabled Masking Tool during our talent screening process to address the concern of gender bias and open our doors to a wider range of talent. A recruiter incentive plan and hiring partner incentive program has been launched and our hiring guidelines have been communicated to all the partners in the recruiting process.


InaMarie Johnson, Chief People Officer, Zendesk

My call to action in my role at Zendesk is to always aim to create a culture and organisation that is diverse and inclusive so that every employee feels championed, and every employee feels included. This means fostering a corporate culture built on merit, and having empathy towards the changing needs of a gender inclusive workforce.

I am proud to say that our global minimum of 16 weeks leave for new parents (either in addition to or alongside any local legislative entitlement) is fully paid for and extended to both new mothers and fathers alike. Every family unit is structured uniquely to another, and our parental leaves are designed to empower parents with the flexibility to decide what fits the needs of their family best.

As a company grounded in the business of customer experience (CX), empathy and equality are instrumental to our success as an organisation. These values are also translated into delivering a positive employee experience (EX). A clear example of us implementing this is the use of engagement surveys with honest feedback, regular reporting of outcomes to employees and transparent tracking of subsequent actions. We proactively seek out and identify areas where we know we can do better in building a more gender inclusive workplace.


We still have three more parts to our series focusing on women leadership, and bridging the gap in gender diversity in organisations. Stay tuned for more!

Part 1: Pearls of wisdom: Career advice from women leaders to their younger selves

Part 2: IWD2019 special: How CDL, Mars Inc, Standard Chartered Bank, and more are building balanced workplaces

Part 3: How leaders across Asia are taking responsibility to advocate a gender-balanced society

Part 4: Advice from 12 women leaders on overcoming career challenges

Part 5: 10 D&I initiatives that some of Asia’s most successful employers do

Part 6: If you could meet your younger self, what career advice would you give?

Part 7: ‘Don’t be afraid to be different’: Career advice from leaders across Asia

Part 8: 13 ways leaders like yourself can make an impact on gender equality

Part 9: How-To: 10 ideas you can adopt to help #BalanceForBetter

Part 10: Take a leaf out of these 10 women leaders’ career diary

Part 11: Action for change: How leaders from BASF, Emirates, Henkel, and more are taking responsibility for D&I

Part 12: Interviews with AXA Insurance, Cisco, HP, Roland Berger, and more on D&I issues

Part 14: Building diversity isn’t an HR role: How leaders across the board invest time into it

Part 15: [Watch] Nuggets of wisdom: 10 women leaders share career advice to their younger selves

Part 16: Be fearless and fight for your right: Tips for overcoming career challenges

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