National | WAW! and W20 Special

Gender diversity, inclusivity vital for growth

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Philip Morris Japan Ltd. (PMJ) has extensively recruited female talent to achieve greater diversity in its workforce. In 2018, 40 percent of total new hires were women, which is 2.5 times more than figures from five years ago. The increase was even more dramatic in the field sales force, where the new hire percentage of women rose from 3 percent to 44 percent in five years.

PMJ offers various opportunities for female candidates to meet women already working in the company to learn about their stories and achievements, including the fact that the ratio of women in senior leadership positions has also seen a sharp rise. It stood at 36 percent in 2018, more than double from more than half a decade ago.

PMJ’s Manager of Transformation and Organization Effectiveness Mathilda Lumbantobing pointed out that it is easy to voice the importance of closing the gender talent gap, but it’s difficult to make it happen if nobody in the organization knows exactly where they are. “We’ve set clear targets that leaders are accountable for achieving, to improve the representation of women at all levels in the organization, and we’re tracking and regularly reporting on the progress,” she said.

She also mentioned that President Shea Lih Goh, is a female leader who is a strong role model. “She is actually the first woman to lead PMJ,” she said.

As proof that the company is truly committed to creating a gender-balanced, inclusive workplace, PMJ has received certification from the Switzerland-based nonprofit EQUAL-SALARY Foundation for three consecutive years since 2016 when it was certified as the first Japan-based company. “We managed to close the pay gap between men and women to 0.4 percent in 2018,” she said.

Lumbantobing said realizing a diverse and inclusive environment is crucial for the company known for its innovative heat-not-burn IQOS product that has been widely marketed in Japan since 2014.

Although the pace of change varies in each country, the world is undoubtedly shifting toward a smoke-free future. The heat-not-burn product has evolved the tobacco product landscape on a global scale. “PMJ’s vision to achieve a smoke-free future has been the driver for the transformation of our organization and people,” said Lumbantobing.

Different skills, perspectives and ideas from a diverse group of talent were needed to develop and sell the new product. Additionally, various views were crucial in understanding the needs of the different consumers of the product.

To achieve a greater diversity, PMJ also offers a flexible work environment for not only their female employees, but for all of its employees to allow everyone to benefit from and maintain a better balance between personal time and work. “We have introduced flexible working hours for our field sales team where they have the freedom to fully manage their work hours, (as well as) half-day Fridays and work-from-home policies for our headquarter employees,” said Lumbantobing. All employees are also given 10 additional days of annual family leave.

For female employees, a monetary child care support program is offered to ease the economic burden of child-rearing expenses, including the cost of day care centers. “We also try our best in helping them integrate back into their workplaces,” she said. As a result of these efforts, all female employees who took maternity leave have returned to work.

As a mother of two children aged 7 and 11, Lumbantobing is fully aware how important it is for the company to allow flexibility in work styles.

The company offers networking opportunities for female sales staff to provide them with peer support across offices in Japan. They get together from different locations to share challenges and find solutions through interacting with other women in the same position. “It has become a regular event where various development activities are also offered during the session,” said Lumbantobing.

“In our sales force, women are not the majority yet, so it is important to make sure that they do not feel left out by helping them to speak their opinions, as well as concerns,” said PMJ’s Manager of Communications Ran Koike. Lumbantobing added, “To each such event, some of the managers and male employees are also invited because they need to understand the situation so they can also provide support.”

This year, even though closing gender gap will remain the target, Lumbantobing said PMJ will focus more on building an inclusive culture in the workplace. “Diversity is about having a different mix of people. Being inclusive means how to have this mix of different people work together well,” she said. “Developing diversity and inclusion involves leadership to give and receive feedback, making sure all voices are heard, how to eliminate hierarchy while establishing psychological safety to speak out, and making people aware of possible bias in assessing others.”

PMJ’s business continues to transform around its innovative heat-not-burn product, which was developed in light of the changing societal expectations, and its efforts around inclusion and diversity continue to be the key driver to support its transformation journey.

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