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How P&G achieved gender diversity at its Singapore water purifying plant

The manufacturing industry is well known for having one of the lowest percentages of women in the workforce. However, at P&G's Singapore Pioneer Plant, a series of diversity-intensive initiatives have ensured that 55% of the workforce consists of women.

On May 13, Procter & Gamble (P&G) celebrated the milestone of the 10 billionth litre of clean drinking water, through its non-profit Children’s Safe Drinking Water (CSDW) Program, at the P&G Purifier of Water plant in Singapore - the only place globally which makes P&G's water purification packets.

Under the CSDW program, which started in 2004, the P&G Purifier of Water packets have been provided across 15 Asian countries including Cambodia, China, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. The program works with more than 150 partners and organisations to raise awareness and provide clean drinking water, including over 1.1 billion litres donated in Asia.

At the event, Human Resources caught up with Magesvaran Suranjan, president of Asia Pacific at Procter & Gamble and Lynette Yong, HR manager at P&G Singapore Pioneer Plant to find out more about how the firm approaches diversity and inclusion in its workforce.

Q. What is P&G’s view on workforce diversity and equal opportunities? Suranjan: People are our most important asset. We believe strongly in attracting the best talent and in helping them achieve their maximum potential. This is done through supportive company policies and continuous learning programmes. It is our core value to promote and reward our people, fully embracing diversity and equal opportunities for all employees.

Q. What are some of the initiatives P&G has in place to promote this? Yong: We are open and conscious in our hiring policy. Regardless of gender or race, we hire people based on their ability to perform the job function. Many of our work processes are adapted to allow women equal opportunities to take on positions traditionally held by men.

Automation has been also introduced, which has allowed us to reduce our reliance on manpower, and eliminate the need for physical force in terms of heavy load lifting in our plant.

Apart from this, we also have family-friendly and mother-friendly initiatives at the plant. Nursing rooms are available in the office area at our plant, and we offer parental benefits to all our employees. Being a plant, flexible work schedules cannot be guaranteed. However, we are strong advocates of family and work life balance, and support flexibility where we can.

Our unique approach to grooming talent offers equal opportunity to ITE, polytechnic and degree-holders. Everybody starts as an entry-level technician, and you are given opportunities, the right tools and training to excel. An ITE-graduate has the same opportunity to be promoted to management as a degree-holder.

ALSO READ: Regional data on gender diversity – how Malaysia, Singapore, China fare

Q. Since the implementation of these initiatives, what results have been seen? Yong: Since its opening in 2012, the P&G Purifier of Water Plant has gone from being staffed by a predominantly male workforce, to having 55% of our plant workforce being women. It is unusual in the manufacturing sector in Singapore to see a majority – or even a balanced – female workforce.

Our warehouse operations is headed by Nurliyana Sulaiman, a mother of one. She was given training in forklift and other machinery operations, among other courses, and is today managing the warehouse.

Many of our employees, no matter their educational qualifications, have also risen up the ranks to become leaders of their departments. One of them, Aaron Ngui, joined us with an Engineering Diploma as an entry-level technician, and went on to complete a Degree in Business Management while working with us. Today, he is an engineering project manager in our General Office.

Q. How do such initiatives specifically offer ROI for the business? Suranjan: It is important to have a diverse talent pool in any successful organisation. In the process of talent acquisition, we recruit employees from a diverse range of backgrounds, and choose the individuals who have the best skill set and most relevant experience to excel in the job function.

Diversity at P&G is a strength. We believe that diversity in our employees can lead to diversity of thinking which help fuel innovation.  This enables P&G employees to play to the best of their abilities.

P&G From left to right: Amb. Michael W. Michalak, SVP and regional MD, US-ASEAN Business Council; Nicolas Defauw, CFO, P&G Asia Pacific; Ashley McInerney, head of business development and operations, American Chamber of Commerce; Kirk Wagar, Ambassador to Singapore for United States of America; Magesvaran Suranjan, president, P&G Asia Pacific; Rogelio Granguillhome Morfin, Ambassador to Singapore for Mexico; Foo Pek Hong, CEO, World Vision Singapore; Kelvin Coney, plant manager, P&G Singapore Pioneer Plant; Bernard Tan, MD, Singapore International Water Week

Lead image: Shutterstock

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