05 Jumada I 1443 - 9 December 2021
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Eye of Riyadh
Eye of Riyadh
Business & Money | Sunday 8 March, 2020 12:12 pm |

Gender Equal Opportunities: Fix the System

By Sonali Dhawan, Vice President, P&G Femcare, Asia Pacific Middle East & Africa 

At P&G we want to hire the most capable people to serve our consumers across the world and the world is made up equally of both genders, it makes sense that we want to reflect that balance in the workplace, through our advertising and the communities in which we operate. It is the right human choice and it is the right business choice. 

We know that empowering women equally with men at the workplace leads to business success, with greater creativity, greater relevance, employee retention and productivity. 

What stands in the way of this obvious choice is equal opportunity, and what stands in the way of equal opportunity are the myths that are perpetuated by society and reinforced through generations. 

Here are four interventions to create equal opportunity and break the myths 

  1. Fix the System  

Many conversations start with the premise that we need to ‘Fix the Women’, women are not ambitious enough, confident enough, do not show the right leadership skills. It is the pervasive narrative of ‘lack’ – especially around confidence and ambition that is damaging to women. What we instead need to do is the ‘Fix the System’ – which is the definition of leadership, policies, career and equal opportunity which is not restricted by bias. 

Externally as well, we must make a deliberate effort to empower women to encourage them and their voice as we develop content and communication for them. Women must have a say in the stories we tell them and we must use both our influence and our intent to make this happen. At P&G we are playing a significant role in shifting this narrative by leveraging the scale of our advertising voice to spark change and remove bias. In this region, our campaigns like Always Saudi #GenerationOfFirsts, Always #GirlsCan, Ariel #ShareTheLoad. 

  1. Men as allies  

Gender Equality is not only a women’s prerogative. Men have an equal role to play to enabling gender equality. In many countries across the world, social standards and norms of patriarchy still exist, where men are more privileged than women. Personally, throughout my life, I have learnt that these norms and standards can be changed if men took the progressive route to reinforce inclusion. Empowering women in leadership positions ensures future economies will be dynamic and inclusive – offering equal opportunity to everyone. 

At P&G, through our partnership with Catalyst’s MARC (Men Advocating Real Change) program, we are helping both men and women understand privilege and bias to build more inclusive leaders. It is a powerful program that has reaped real results in bringing about a more equal workplace in various markets starting with the key role that men play as allies. 

Male advocacy for female leadership is essential and valuable. In my own experience working across many countries in this region, men in leadership positions have played an important role in my career, sponsoring me and advocating for my growth. There are plenty of proud male feminists, but to make equality a reality we need to draw more into the conversation 


  1. Equal Opportunity starts early – with education  

In my role as the VP of our Feminine Care business, I spent a significant amount of time with women and girls across the region to learn how we can serve them better. In many communities across the world the stigmas and taboos around menstruation lead to many girls not receiving information about puberty and often being unprepared when they have their first period. In addition to that, girls who grow up in poverty often cannot afford period protection, which means that they don’t fully participate in school, sports or social life when they have their periods. All these issues can lead to increased school absenteeism, and for some girls even dropping out altogether. I believe strongly that Education is the first stepping stone to equal opportunity. Our Always Keeping Girls in School program provides puberty education and free pads with the intent to reduce the dropout rates of secondary school girls. Through this program we are committed to educating over 23MM girls across Asia Pacific Middle East and Africa over the next 3 years.

  1. Creating deliberate opportunities for women’s economic empowerment 

We are deliberate about intentional talent management to ensure we have gender equal slates for all roles. In our regional headquarters here in UAE, 46% of our employees are women and we hire equally across both genders. In Saudi – 57% of our new hires are women. 

Importantly, we do not restrict ourselves to equal opportunity within P&G, we are leveraging our scale to deliberately work with women owned businesses outside of P&G too. We intend to spend 150MM$ over the next three years on deliberately working with women owned businesses across Asia Pacific Middle East Africa.  An example is what we did in Saudi Arabia which demonstrates how important it is for companies like us to ‘Walk the Talk’. As you are aware Saudi Arabia is at the cusp of transformation. This generation of Saudi women are coming into their own, and the first to challenge expectations in careers, at home. Always in Saudi Arabia decided to celebrate this generation with a campaign called #GenerationofFirsts” which encourages women through the voices of Saudi women achievers who have been firsts, to take the first step. We developed this campaign with not only an ALL Saudi Cast & Crew, but an ALL Female Saudi cast & crew including the director, producer, cinematographer, production crew etc. This is fairly unprecedented anywhere in the world and we did it in Saudi Arabia.  

It is important for us to engage and to remember that gender equality and the empowerment of female leadership is not just a women’s issue, it’s a human issue that impacts all of us, because at the end of the day, it is smart to ‘see equal’.

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