The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic is deepening workplace inequalities as companies the world over are facing enormous pressure under the ‘new normal’. According to the United Nation’s policy brief on the impact of COVID-19 on women, the limited gains made in the past decades are at risk of being rolled back due to the widespread pandemic and bleak economic outlook.
Additionally, the borders between office and home have faded away, with many women now struggling to juggle the manifold roles of being an employee, a spouse and parent, while some are at the same time being locked down at home with their abusers. This has created many stages of anxiety for women. Against this backdrop, Accenture, AECI, Aspen, Business Engage, Imperial, Nedbank, Pfizer and RMB have partnered to host the third annual Voices of Change virtual event on 7 August 2020 that aims to encourage men and women to play leading roles on gender parity in the workplace. Themed Individually strong, collectively powerful; the event also aims to inspire organisations, irrespective of their business purpose, to work together towards common goals.
The keynote will be delivered by Lynette Ntuli, Founding Director and CEO of Innate Investment Solutions on Women reimagined: transformation of talent, technology and value post COVID-19. The panel discussion will focus on the role of leaders post COVID-19 and will include leading executives from Accenture, AECI, Aspen, Business Engage, Imperial, Nedbank, Pfizer and RMB. Around 1 200 men and women are expected to attend the virtual event.
The idea for Voices of Change came from the 2017 One Young World Summit where Accenture and Thomson Reuters identified an opportunity to leverage their networks and experience to create a lasting and impactful change.
According to Colleen Larsen, Business Engage’s Gender Mainstreaming Awards founder and President of 30% Club Southern Africa, despite the steady progress made in the last few years South Africa still has a long way from achieving gender parity. “I’m pleased about the commitment and progress Accenture, AECI, Aspen, Business Engage, Imperial, Nedbank, Pfizer and RMB are making in advancing their women. Dealing with the challenges and grasping opportunities is made possible by likeminded organisations coming together to find solutions in a constructive and positive manner. I have no doubt that their efforts will bring many benefits in the long run,” says Larsen.
“These organisations are setting an example of how organisations should work together to address pertinent issues affecting society. Business Engage will support them in navigating many hurdles and achieve their goals.”
The virtual event will give women from all participating partners with the opportunity to engage and discuss how leaders are tackling gender equality. It will bring together diverse insights from women and men of different backgrounds, cultures, professions and industries, from all levels of their organisations, to strengthen the value proposition of gender equality. It will also activate awareness, share learning, and identify interventions that will help to empower women and embed a new set of values across organisations.
Voice notes on what the collaboration means for partner organisations:
Quotations from partner organisations’ senior executives are as follow:
Vukani Mngxati, CEO of Accenture in Africa: “Accelerating a culture of equality in the workplace has never been more critical for driving innovation, and must be at the top of any business agenda. It starts with the trust that diversity is not only the right thing to do, but a business imperative that is treated the same as any other strategic priority. When a strong, equal workplace culture is prioritised, everyone benefits and as a result, the organisation unlocks greater innovation and growth.”
Lorraine Hill, Aspen Group Operating Officer and Responsible Pharmacist: “The Voices of Change initiative gives Aspen an additional opportunity to play a leading role in delivering one of Aspen’s Key performance indicators namely diversity and inclusion.”
Mohammed Akoojee, CEO at Imperial: “Gender diversity in the workplace means celebrating the fundamental role of women, creating real opportunities for them and driving an understanding at every level that it is a business imperative, not a nice to have. At Imperial we stand by this thinking and have ingrained this into the fabric of who we are, with clear goals and objectives to not only achieve and improve gender equality and female empowerment, but to maintain it over the long term. Harnessing the power of gender equality and collaborating around it means a more powerful, balanced global workforce that exudes success.”
Mike Brown, CEO of Nedbank: “Transformation remains a strategic imperative at Nedbank. We continue to make strides in fulfilling our aspiration to be a ‘great place to work, bank and invest, underpinned by a key focus area; the advancement of women, which is a necessary step in building a workforce that better reflects the country’s demographics. A fully transformed Nedbank is an imperative in becoming the most admired bank by our stakeholders.”
“We acknowledge that women have in the past been unfairly discriminated against in society and in employment. As a result, Nedbank embraces the spirit of the EE Act, No. 55 of 1998 as amended including diversity, inclusion and the advancement of its employees, especially women because we believe that women can and continue to make a valuable contribution to every area of our business and sustainability. Employment equity at Nedbank is not just a compliance matter, nor is it a burden. Rather, it is a necessary vehicle in driving a successful organization through fairness, justice, equality and inclusion,” Brown concludes.
Rhulani Nhlaniki, Country Manager for Pfizer South Africa: “Diversity and inclusion are Pfizer priorities in the first place because they are moral imperatives and because they form part of our DNA. As a company one of our core values is equity, where we articulate our intent that every person be seen, heard, and cared for. We recognise that we have the power to effect change and we are using it – having made significant progress in building a dynamic team that reflects the demographics of our society.”
Nomfundo Makaya, RMB Human Capital Executive: “An inclusive culture not only unlocks the power of different perspectives, it also nurtures and liberates potential which results in better solutions and sustainable results. At RMB, embracing diversity means appreciating the uniqueness that each person brings to the organisation, ensuring that the workplace is a place where everyone experiences a sense of belonging, is heard, and can make a positive impact.”
Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services in strategy and consulting, interactive, technology and operations, with digital capabilities across all of these services. We combine unmatched experience and specialised capabilities across more than 40 industries — powered by the world’s largest network of Advanced Technology and Intelligent Operations Centres. With 513 000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries, Accenture brings continuous innovation to help clients improve their performance and create lasting value across their enterprises. Visit us at www.accenture.com.
AECI is a diversified Group of 16 companies. It has regional and international businesses in Africa, Europe, South East Asia, North America, South America and Australia. Products and services are provided to a broad spectrum of customers in the mining, water treatment, plant and animal health, food and beverage, infrastructure and general industrial sectors.
Aspen is a global specialty and branded multinational pharmaceutical company with a presence in both emerging and developed markets, with approximately 10 000 employees at 70 established business operations in 55 countries. We improve the health of patients in more than 150 countries through our high quality, affordable products. Our key business segments are Manufacturing and Commercial Pharmaceuticals comprising Regional Brands and Sterile Focus Brands that include Anaesthetics and Thrombosis products. Visit us at www.aspenpharma.com
About Business Engage
Business Engage Association NPC is a non-profit company established in 2005. It is an exciting and inventive organisation at the forefront of strategic thinking on gender mainstreaming in the private sector. It is a collaborative of corporates working together to create the business case for gender diversity. Business Engage is the custodian of the 30% Club Southern and East Africa. 30% Club is an international group of Chairmen, CEOs, senior executives and senior partners of private sector and state-owned organisations that are publicly committed to achieving and sustaining at least 30% women on boards within a designated period because they believe it is good for the overall effectiveness of the boardroom – and therefore good for business. Focus is also placed on the pipeline development to create sustainable change.
Imperial is an African and European focused provider of logistics and market access solutions. We take our clients’ products to some of the fastest-growing and most challenging markets in the world. We relentlessly seek out and leverage new technology to deliver innovative, integrated, end-to-end solutions. Through our African presence and global expertise, Imperial’s purpose is to connect Africa and the world. For additional information see www.imperiallogistics.com.
Nedbank Group is one of South Africa’s largest banking groups by assets and deposits, with Nedbank Limited being our principal banking subsidiary. The bank, which is also continuing to expand into Africa with a presence in 39 countries on the continent through our Ecobank alliance, provides a wide range of wholesale and retail banking services and a growing insurance, asset management and wealth management offering through four main business operations, namely Nedbank Corporate and Investment Banking, Nedbank Business Banking, Nedbank Retail and Nedbank Wealth. Transformation is at the heart of our mission as a bank premised on using our financial expertise to do good. For more information visit www.nedbank.co.za.
At Pfizer, we apply science and our global resources to bring therapies to people that extend and significantly improve their lives. We strive to set the standard for quality, safety and value in the discovery, development and manufacture of health care products, including innovative medicines and vaccines. Every day, Pfizer colleagues work across developed and emerging markets to advance wellness, prevention, treatments and cures that challenge the most feared diseases of our time. Consistent with our responsibility as one of the world’s premier innovative biopharmaceutical companies, we collaborate with health care providers, governments and local communities to support and expand access to reliable, affordable health care around the world. For more than 150 years, we have worked to make a difference for all who rely on us. To learn more, please visit us on www.Pfizer.com.
Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) is a leading African Corporate and Investment Bank and part of one of the largest financial services groups (by market capitalisation) in Africa – FirstRand Bank Limited. The bank offer its clients innovative, value-added advisory, funding, trading, corporate banking and principal investing solutions. As the Corporate and Investment arm of FirstRand Bank Limited, RMB has access to a network of retail banks in 25 African countries, including representative offices and branches in the UK, India and China. Gender equality is a key part of RMB’s overall transformation. RMB believes that both men and women have a voice in the bank and that both play a critical role in the success of its business. RMB’s gender equality programme, Athena, was launched in 2015 to create an environment where women are empowered to achieve their individual career goals, while growing the number of women in leadership in finance.