Turning the tide on workplace imbalances
JOHANNESBURG – As the Covid-19 pandemic routs the global economy, affecting everyone, women and girls face specific and often disproportionate economic, health, and social risks due to deeply entrenched inequalities, social norms, and unequal power relations.
A recent UNDP report stated that the Covid-19 crisis was a systemic human development crisis, compounding risks to progress towards gender equality. Across several social, economic, and political dimensions, women and girls were disproportionately affected by the crisis simply because of their sex.
According to calculations by McKinsey, women’s jobs were 1.8 times more vulnerable to this crisis than men’s jobs. Women made up 39 percent of global employment but accounted for 54 percent of overall job losses.
McKinsey noted that one reason for this greater effect on women was that the pandemic was significantly increasing the burden of unpaid care, which is disproportionately carried by women. This, among other factors, meant that women’s employment was dropping faster than average.
According to the World Bank development indicators, women made up less than 50 percent of the global workforce in 2019 and in South Africa, a recent PwC report revealed that only 3.3 percent of the companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) had females in chief executive positions.
Within this milieu, Pfizer South Africa’s country manager Rhulani Nhlaniki said for Pfizer, Women’s Month meant affirming its commitment to its core value of equity, which meant that everyone deserved to be seen, heard and cared for, and for celebrating its journey in diversity and inclusion.
To date, women make up 73 percent (183 out of 248 employees) of the company’s total headcount in South Africa and out of 15 executive management positions, 10 are occupied by women (67 percent).
“Women in executive roles in the business play a vital role in shaping our talent pipeline which is made up of women in senior roles across our commercial, human resources, supply chain, medical, regulatory, and corporate affairs and communications divisions who are committed to mentoring and developing aspiring leaders.
“In addition, they are responsible for strategic decisions that allow the company to achieve its purpose, which is to deliver breakthroughs that change patients’ lives. Some of these women also serve on external advisory boards, extending their reach and influence beyond our doors into the greater sector,” said Nhlaniki.
Over the past 18 months, five women have joined our executive team, added Nhlaniki. “Three of these are new recruits and two of the appointments are previous Pfizer employees, who left us to pursue development opportunities and have now re-joined us at an executive level.”
As part of its internal Women’s Month initiatives, which focus on the themes of leadership, growth and wellness, Pfizer has selected five women to be part of Deloitte’s virtual Authentic Women in Leadership programme.
The women, who had to motivate why they should form part of the programme and how they would disseminate the learnings amongst their teams, will attend a series of four virtual interactive sessions where they will gain insight into how to operate optimally, find purpose in what they do and enhance individual, team and greater organisational success.
Pfizer is acutely aware that the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic has entrenched workplace inequalities and that many women were struggling to juggle the roles of employee, spouse, parent and educator.
In this respect, Nhlaniki said, it recently partnered with other major corporate players – Accenture, AECI, Aspen, Business Engage, Imperial, Nedbank and RMB – to host the third annual Voices for Change conference on August 7, which encouraged men and women to play leading roles on gender parity in the workplace.
Notably, Pfizer’s reach extends beyond its own orbit and the company has partnered with Unjani, an organisation that has established sustainable primary healthcare clinics throughout South Africa and empowered more than 58 female professional nurses, created jobs for more than of 200 people.