‘There is more to do to engage, inspire and meet expectations of female talent but we can’t do this alone’ - Coca-Cola European Partners
This week Coca-Cola European Partners spoke at a ‘Women in the workplace’ conference in which the company urged the Government to work with companies to get more females into the industry.
Ahead of International Women’s Day 2017, Coca-Cola European Partners took part in an event in central London which considered the further policy priorities for improving gender equality in the workplace. The seminar brought together policy makers with key stakeholders including representatives of businesses and trade unions, employment lawyers, charities and campaign groups, and universities. In total there were 150 attendees at the session, with over 40 attending from Government departments. The discussions centred around the gender pay gap; tackling sex and maternity discrimination; improving the availability of high-quality childcare provision; and the challenges for increasing the proportion of women in leadership and executive management positions within the British economy.
Further sessions focussed on careers education, particularly how best to increase female participation in apprenticeships and STEM subjects, and how to inspire more young women to pursue careers in under-represented professions, including in public office.
The discussion, chaired by Flick Drummond MP and Sarah Champion MP, was informed by the findings of the Women and Equalities Select Committee inquiries on the gender pay gap, women in executive management, pregnancy and maternity discrimination, women in the House of Commons and on the impact of Brexit on the equalities agenda.
Maria Kokkinou, Vice President, Talent Acquisition, Management & Development at Coca-Cola European Partners laid out the economic impact on the manufacturing industry if more of the workforce were female.
“Women represent almost half of the population, they hold tremendous consumer spending power and if women contributed fully to the economy, we would all be better off,” she told the audience.
“Yet, women, still only make up just over 30% of the food and drink manufacturing industry. And to make things worse, According to the Women’s Engineering Society, last year only 9% of the engineering workforce was female. The UK has the lowest percentage of women engineers in Europe! We want to part of the solution to change this.”
Ms Kokkinou went on to explain that Coca-Cola European Partners wants to combat societal representation by focusing on having a gender balanced company.
“In Training & Development, we have more recently put bespoke programmes in place to accelerate the development of our talented women at all stages and levels of their career. These are not focusing on building confidence and ‘fixing women’ to progress, but really focus on broader topics including mentoring, peer coaching, and sustainable high performance including nutrition, health and wellbeing.
“We recognise that many women still tend to be the main carer at home. Sometimes this drives them away from the labour market. In 2016 we piloted the ‘Super Parent’ initiative in GB. This is an initiative to attract women to work in shift patterns in manufacturing.
“This initiative was about demystifying what working in shifts was like and highlight to them the benefits. If they choose, they can work fewer days in a year, have time off in the week to spend with the family or run errands. This programme focuses on working mums or mothers seeking to return to work. From this campaign, we have seen an increase of female applicants by 15%.
She added: “As most businesses and the Government knows - what gets measured typically gets done. We track our gender data by function and level in the organisation to measure and benchmark our progress and importantly we report to our CEO and leadership team who are accountable to drive the agenda, alongside our Chairman who is a woman and very passionate about the agenda.
Ms Kokkinou told the audience: “The 5by20 initiative is the Coca-Cola Company’s global commitment to enable the economic empowerment of 5 million women entrepreneurs across the company’s value chain by 2020. We’ve enacted 5by20 here in the UK – we trialled a scheme in Dundee in Scotland last year.”
She concluded her speech by acknowledging that although last year 66% of the company’s graduates and 15% of our apprentices recruited into our Manufacturing and Engineering teams were female, the company needs to do more.
“As the world is shifting, so do the expectations of the younger generations. There is still more to do to engage, inspire and meet the expectations of young female (and male) talent. We cannot do this alone. We need a joint industry and Government approach to promoting the benefits of STEM subjects in schools, by embedding STEM in the curriculum and particularly mentoring girls to be inspired to take up these subjects, so that we build the future talent pool.
To conclude, we are committed to engage in a dialogue and collaborate closer with the government and schools and keep challenging ourselves as to how we can enable women to dream big and realise their full potential.”