Want to Empower Women Within Your Organization? “Get the Structure Right,” Says One Executive
Westcon Comstor, a value-added Zebra distributor in South Africa, is serious about inclusion and diversity and made key changes to prove it.
According to a 2021 report from Catalyst, 39% of working women in Africa are in senior management roles. If that number seems low, it’s not. Even fewer women hold senior management roles in Latin America, Europe, North America and Asia Pacific. But achieving the top ranking in terms of women empowerment is bittersweet when you consider that women are still far outnumbered in leadership meetings.
That’s why global technology companies like Westcon-Comstor are taking a strong stance, and even more noticeable action, toward equality. It’s also why employees in Weston-Comstor’s Sub-Saharan Africa division are motivated to dig deeper into gender inequality issues. They want to ensure women are given opportunities to grow and climb as high as they can in the company and in life.
Taking a Page from the Corporate Book
In 2021, Westcon-Comstor Group implemented The One Westcon Program, which encourages diversity, inclusion, and empowerment in the workplace. The Sub-Saharan Africa leadership team, made up of a majority of women, was instrumental in hosting the first One Westcon virtual event with both internal and external speakers addressing various topics, including ways to identify prejudices or biases in the workplace.
This program has since been expanded, resulting in the creation of employee resource groups (ERGs) across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. These groups, which are made up of Westcon-Comstor employees and led by senior advocates appointed by Westcon, provide support and resources related to different topics, including health and well-being, inclusion, workplace, sports, equality, and family.
Elevating Women’s Empowerment Resources
Robyn Newel, HR Director for Westcon-Comstor’s operations in the Middle East and Africa, sees how the women of Africa face genuine challenges every day. “Pressure from a patriarchal society, lack of opportunity because of their gender, and unnecessary abuse are just a few of the many reasons why women may not be able to showcase their talents, pursue their passions or apply their intelligence in the workplace. For us, as a business, we arrive every day knowing that this is the reality for many women. However, we don’t just talk about it. We work together to change it in everything we do.”
To really extend opportunities to women, Westcon-Comstor SA invests in the Westcon Women’s Empowerment Trust and works closely with the University of Johannesburg to identify young women who are deserving of support and assistance throughout their IT studies.
As Robyn explained, though, Weston-Comstor doesn’t just pay for their studies.
“We look at their well-being, and their living conditions, and then try and assist in every aspect of their lives so that they can be the best they can be. We then close the loop by providing employment opportunities to give them workplace experience as interns at Westcon-Comstor,” she added.
When I asked her what types of commitments other corporations should be making to elevate more women in the workplace and local communities, she made it very clear:
“Make [diversity, empowerment, inclusion and equality] a lifestyle, not just lip service. It can’t just be listed as a strategic priority. It needs to permeate every aspect of work and the values associated with it. Our DNA is who we are, whether as individuals or companies.”
Catherine Mwolodo, Chief Financial Officer at Westcon-Comstor, Middle East and Africa, agrees. She feels fortunate to work at Westcon-Comstor, which “really walks the talk in terms of diversity and inclusion.” She also counts herself lucky to be a senior advocate for Westcon’s Workplace ERG, “an initiative that aims to bring employees issues in the workplace to light and how these can be improved.”
However, she highlighted the importance of women’s empowerment on a broader scale by stressing that, “Companies need to get the structure right to be able to empower women. They must also give them the technology to succeed and encourage more women to take up STEM programmes to upskill.’
And, as a society, “we need to stop seeing jobs as a man’s or woman’s job,” she told me.
As a man, I couldn’t agree more.
Gender roles are simply biases baked into cultures, whether societal or corporate. We must #BreakTheBias and ensure we’re making hiring, promotion and assignment decisions based on who is best for the job based on demonstrated capabilities, developed skillsets, experience, knowledge, drive and passion. Nothing else. More important, we must ensure we are not forgetting that every employee is a person with real ambitions and challenges. We need to ensure they’re given personalized attention and support, regardless of gender, so they can be the best person they can be at work and at home.
If you would like to learn more about how Zebra and our global partners are working to #BreakTheBias, check out these blog posts:
What Can We Do to #BreakTheBias About Women in the Workplace (and Society) Once and For All?
Diversity of Thought Requires Workforce Diversity. So, Lets #BreakTheBias and Invite More Women to the Table.
How the Dynamics of Company and Team Cultures are Evolving as More Women Join the Workforce
What it Means to Be a Woman in Latin America: How Society Has Been Constructed Around Gender
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