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Closing the gap: How Henkel, Mondeléz, and more advocate for gender inclusivity

It may be a month since International Women's Day, but the push for progress should continue.

In this seventh part of our series, we're glad to showcase more ideas on how organisations are pushing for gender inclusivity.

This time, see what these six organisations - Essence, Henkel, Mondeléz, MoneySmart, Otis, and Schneider Electric - have to say when have to say when asked, "What is your company doing to push for progress when it comes to thinking, acting and being gender inclusive?"

Veli Aghdiran, VP learning and culture, APAC, Essence

In 2016, Essence launched Women@Essence - our global platform that equips Essence's female talent with the confidence they need to thrive in their careers. Under this format, senior female leaders mentor and coach their junior female leads in an intensive learning program to empower one another.

The initiative creates programming, content and other resources to further support female employees and educate male employees on women's issues.  Mentoring, helping other women up the ladder and making women more visible are high on the agenda. It also is designed to serve as an investment in women leaders.

Feedback has been resoundingly positive, and we hope to see a ripple effect as participants extend the learning to colleagues.  Bringing like-minded women together in the agency is extremely critical to foster personal and professional growth. The agency has long been proud of its diverse teams around the world, two thirds of our regional CEOs are women, and women makeup roughly half of our workforce and global executive team (GET).

We're proud of the progress we've made, and we're focused on continuing to develop and activate our diversity initiatives globally as our business grows and expands to a broader range of markets.

Jarrod Patterson, HR director of South Asia, and HR business partner for operations and purchasing, Asia Pacific, Henkel

Henkel prides itself on having a diverse workforce, and gender diversity is an important indicator of our inclusive corporate culture.

For example, our flexible work arrangements enable our female employees to accommodate both their career aspirations and personal situations. By providing a positive environment, we have increased our share of women in management from 26% in 2008 to around 34% at the end of 2017.

In 2018 we will continue our annual global diversity and inclusion campaign, which will focus on agility. We want to encourage all our employees - including challenging our talented female employees - to be more open to changes, different career paths and work locations. We also provide occasions for learning and mentoring from role models.

In Singapore, for instance, we recently held a diversity and inclusion Q&A panel discussion, where senior female executives share how they have shaped and grow their career with Henkel.

ALSO READ: Q&A: Jarrod Patterson, Henkel

Atul Khosla, vice president, human resources, AMEA, Mondelēz International

We believe that a diverse and inclusive workforce creates a better place to work. Research tells us that companies who embrace diversity and inclusion are twice as likely to be innovative and adaptable to change, and four times more likely to develop a culture of learning. This year, we've committed to four key areas of focus in our efforts to strengthen progress in gender diversity.

1. Reignite our focus on our inclusion and diversity council

The first is to reignite our focus on our inclusion and diversity council. We believe inclusion and diversity in the workplace goes beyond gender. We're also committed to furthering diversity with regard to nationality, faith, age and LGBTQ, which is why we've had a dedicated I&D Council at Mondeléz International for three years now to run new initiatives and track progress on how employees are feeling heard, valued and respected.

2. Provide female staff with more career experiences and greater mobility

We've committed to provide female employees with more career experiences and greater mobility across the region. We recently launched the Let'SGo program in Singapore, where colleagues will gain exposure to new emerging markets over the course of six to 18 months, and take their new skills home to more senior roles. While this program is only in its first year, over 60% of colleagues chosen to gain experience overseas were female and I think it demonstrates the talent of our female employees and our commitment to developing them as leaders.

3. Develop flexible work philosophy

We will also continue to drive and develop our flexible work philosophy, which is a key differentiator of our business. In this modern age, we understand that the family structure has evolved - and with that, the roles of men and women in the family. Many of our female colleagues are breadwinners and working mothers. And many of our male colleagues need the flexibility to take care of their families during the work week. We've trialled and continue to explore many solutions to support our colleagues with family responsibilities.

Our Singapore office is a regional hub for a vast region covering nearly 13 time zones. As a result, we practice work from home and flexible hours to ensure our employees balance time spent with loved ones and success at work.

In 2017, our Melbourne office trialled a school holiday program that allowed parents to bring their kids to work, leave them with qualified teachers from a private local business, and pick them up after work. This initiative was designed to make life easier for working parents during the 10 weeks of school holidays each year. We're exploring a way to make options like this available on a regular basis.

4. Advocate gender diversity with our partners

We're also committed to advocate gender diversity with our partners. Through our Cocoa Life program, we're working to develop cocoa sustainability - and gender equality is a big part of the solution. Supporting gender equality and women's empowerment not only helps women to better support their families and contribute to the development of their communities, but ultimately secures the future supply of cocoa by improving its productivity and quality. In 2016, CARE International published a report highlighting the benefits that Cocoa Life has had on increasing women's influence in cocoa production, including improved financial literacy and increased household income through access to finance.

Diversity is key in driving performance, engagement, and impact. We're very proud of the progress we've already made in driving gender diversity and equality across AMEA. If we as a business are to achieve our ambition of becoming the world's best snacking company, it's imperative that we continue to embrace, safeguard and nurture this diversity, celebrating what unites us and what makes us unique.

ALSO READ: Q&A with Atul Khosla, Mondelēz International

Richa Van Der Gill, talent manager, MoneySmart

The transparent culture at MoneySmart puts us in a good place to pursue gender inclusivity in the workplace.

MoneySmart actively works towards gender parity by first keeping an eye out for outstanding female candidates who can elevate the team with their skills. But this does not mean they get the job any easier than their male counterparts - we want females to be hired based on merit, which is why we ensure that all candidates go through the same hiring process.

Apart from our hiring strategy, we have a series of HR policies aimed at helping working mothers balance their jobs and families. For example, our discretionary time off (DTO) policy allows working mothers to take time off whenever needed without the fear of reprisal or scrutiny and provides female employees greater flexibility with their time.

Furthermore, two-thirds of our product leads are women with deep technical knowledge of the business. We believe that women bring a different perspective to the team, which helps us generate better customised personal finance content for people in all life stages.

Reducing the gender disparity in the tech industry is no mean feat, but it is something MoneySmart is striving towards as part of our collective effort to #PressforProgress.

Sandra Lee, HR director, Otis Southeast Asia

At Otis, we recognise that a diverse workforce is essential to driving business growth and innovation. As such, cultivating an environment that is welcoming, diverse, and inclusive is a top priority for us.

Under our parent company United Technologies Corporation, Otis is proud to be part of the Paradigm for Parity (P4P) coalition - a movement committed to closing the gender gap across all levels of corporate leadership.

In Southeast Asia, our dedication to accelerating gender inclusiveness in our workforce means that we continually conduct talent review sessions to identify, assess, and develop potential women candidates for leadership and critical positions, with a roadmap to have 40% female leaders by 2022.

This year, we're thrilled to play an even larger role to #PressforProgress with the launch of FORWARD - an internal employee resource group that aims to recruit, develop, retain, and promote more women employees working in field operations into leadership roles through mentoring, professional development, and networking.

I am confident that the comprehensive initiatives we have set in place will ensure that we make significant progress in building a gender-inclusive workforce.

Karen Lim, country director, head of human resources, Singapore, Schneider Electric

Diversity and inclusion forms an integral part of Schneider Electric's history, culture, and identity. Schneider Electric's vision is to continue creating an inclusive culture by valuing diversity and offering equal opportunities to everyone, everywhere. We believe that differences make us grow as a company, as individuals, and it is crucial to our overall success.

In January this year, Schneider Electric was included in the 2018 Bloomberg Gender Equality Index, which reaffirms the company's strong commitment towards building an inclusive, diverse culture and its efforts in promoting gender equality.

Some examples include a brand new global family leave policy, women's empowerment principles and the United Nation's HeForShe campaign, where Jean Pascal Tricoire, our CEO is a HeforShe impact corporate champion. As part of this campaign, Schneider Electric has pledged to establish concrete commitments to defend, measure and promote gender equality.

In Q4 2017, as part of Schneider Electric's quarterly 'planet and society' sustainable development barometer, we achieved our goal of ensuring 85% of employees work in countries with a Schneider gender pay equity plan, an increase from 75% in Q3 2017.

Such recognitions serve as a testament for Schneider Electric's numerous initiatives that aim to bring greater positive change throughout the business.

Part one: IWD2018 special: How CapitaLand, DBS, P&G and more are pressing for progress

Part two: Pearls of wisdom: Women leaders share powerful tips on career success

Part three: #PressForProgress: How 3M, Mastercard, TWG Tea, and more are pushing for gender inclusivity

Part four: Journey to the top: Women leaders recount challenges throughout their career

Part five: Wise words from 15 women leaders on career success

Part six: Challenges women face when climbing the corporate ladder

Part eight: Breaking down walls: Women leaders recount career challenges

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