Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Global tobacco giant targets gender equality

Mar 13. 2019
Melissa Whiting, far left, at “Fair Share: The Future of Communicating with Women” conference held in Lausanne last week.
Melissa Whiting, far left, at “Fair Share: The Future of Communicating with Women” conference held in Lausanne last week.
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By JINTANA PANYAARVUDH
THE NATION

4,430 Viewed

PHILIP MORRIS International (PMI), a leading international tobacco company, aims to increase the number of women at the company’s management level globally to 40 per cent by 2022 as part of a strategy to create gender balance in the workplace.

“The number [40 per cent] is our immediate goal and significant although our ultimate goal is balance or 50:50. But we know it’s not always realistic,” Melissa Whiting, vice president Inclusion and Diversity of PMI, told The Nation in an interview.

The number of women at the company’s management level has increased gradually from 29 per cent in 2014 to 35 per cent in 2018. The current number of women employees worldwide is 42 per cent. 

To achieve the goal, the firm is working towards the target by focusing on the two biggest levers, said Whiting, who is responsible for leading PMI’s strategy and practices to create an inclusive workplace.

The first lever is hiring equal numbers of women and men at entry levels to build a gender-balanced pipeline of talent.

The second is to make sure that talented women are as equally likely to be promoted as talented men.

Whiting

However, the firm is facing some challenges in achieving the gender-balance goal, as women are more likely to leave the workforce during the childbearing years, according to Marian Salzman, senior vice president of global communications, PMI.

So, we need to create all kind of flexible programmes so that women who are mothers can do their jobs while also raising their babies, Salzman told The Nation.

“We want people in manager ranks to figure out how to manage between lives at home and family. So you can have working moms who might spread her work day out or put in more working hours by working remotely,” she said.

Salzman

Last week, the tobacco firm became the first international company to be certified globally for equal pay by the independent third-party Swiss-based Equal-Salary Foundation.

The Equal-Salary certification methodology verifies that PMI pays all employees equally for work of equal value where ever we operate all over the world or in more than 90 countries worldwide, including Thailand, according to Whiting.

The Equal-Salary process includes a statistical analysis of all salaries of PMI staff worldwide and onsite audits of PMI country affiliates by PWC, the foundation’s third-party auditor.

Whiting said the certification has been a huge success for the firm and provides a practical building block towards its goal of making PMI a truly gender-balanced and inclusive workplace.

“I’m proud of that. For us, the certification is an important milestone to make sure that we have the basic rights,” she added.

Fair share

The accreditation of PMI’s global equal-salary certification kicked off a dedicated week of activities, the “Week of Women”, culminating in an immersive day of discussion and learning on International Women’s Day last Friday [March 8] that centred on everyone having their “fair share”.

To commemorate the day, the firm hosted “Fair Share: The Future of Communicating with Women”, in Lausanne, a conference aimed to help male employees become gender bilingual and to break down any wall that can exist between colleagues.

Lera Boroditsky, a guest speaker, talks about how language shapes the way we think about gender and culture.

The summit was meant to be the day of bringing the firm’s 150 male employees to celebrate International Women’s Day by learning how to communicate with women, said Salzman.

“At PMI, we talk about giving everyone a ‘fair share’, not just to women. This is a discussion that’s vital to everyone – and we recognise that to empower women, we must engage and empower men to be advocates for equality,” said Salzman.

The conference was also relevant to the firm’s transformation to create a smoke-free future and ultimately replace cigarettes with smoke-free products.

Salzman said from her standpoint, equality is a human right and equality relates to many issues, including equal access to information about a smoke-free future.

“We believe that people being denied access about the issue is also unfair. I strongly believe that people have the right to have a better choice,” said Salzman. 

Morgwn Rimel, a guest speaker, discusses how to communicate across gender through emotional intelligence. 

However, PMI is facing legal hurdles in launching its smoke-free products in several countries, including Thailand where e-cigarettes are banned from import, sale and servicing.

As the global communications senior executive, Salzman said she was prepared to listen and talk to all authorities.

“We need to educate people that we cannot stop people from smoking so we have a moral responsibility to give them more choices. And if there is anything that proves it’s better for you, at least I should say,” she added. 

PMI has set a goal of getting 40 million people to convert from combustion cigarettes to its alternative product by 2025, according to Salzman.

But the most important thing is to have many as people as possible quit smoking as quickly as possible, she added.

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