Breaking the glass ceiling – international women’s day 2020
International Women’s Day, due to take place on 8 March 2020, is an opportunity to help forge a gender equal world. This year’s theme is #EachforEqual, highlighting that as individuals, we can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women’s achievements. As part of International Women’s Day, I spoke to a few members of our team about forging a career in the industrial sector, their thoughts on how to increase gender diversity in the workplace and ultimately, what #EachforEqual means for them.
The different faces of the industry
Although traditionally the food packaging and processing industry has been male dominated, it has been making great strides in recent years to become recognised as more gender diverse. Part of tna from the very beginning (over 35 years!), co-founder and director, Nadia Taylor has some unique views on the future of the sector. She comments: “The industry today still lacks balance between males and females. It’s extremely important that women are and feel recognised as equal to men – they should be remunerated and rewarded as men, and there should be more awards that profile women and their achievements on a regular basis.”
Reportedly, less than 10% of the manufacturing workforce is female. Increasing diversity could actually benefit companies, argues Fransien de Graaf, group product manager processing: “Having more women working in the product-related teams of food processing and packaging equipment suppliers brings us a more complete understanding of customer demands, as we can identify with women’s needs and perspectives in a different way than men do”.
Maria Milana, office administrator at our Middle East office in Dubai concurs, adding: “Diverse workforces are necessary within the industrial sector – they promote innovative thinking, improve business performance and prevent politics/grouping, helping the industry to grow and evolve”.
Fransien also points to the scientific studies that have been carried out in support of more diverse teams. In fact, research shows that both genders add unique skillsets and perspectives that can help a company achieve better results. Many of our team members have seen first-hand the difference this can make: “Early in my career, I joined an all-male engineering management team and heard from them many times how my unique perspective helped the team to become more effective problem solvers. At the same time, I learned a lot from them!” says Teri Johnson, divisional sales manager.
Breaking down the ceiling
The glass ceiling in the food packaging and processing industry needs to be, and can be, broken. Diversity is not an option but a necessity to ensure balance and a culture that fosters meritocracy above all else.
But how can we move forward and create positive change in the sector? The team agrees that education around gender equality needs to start as early as school. Aola Ghoneim, product development engineer says, “There is still a lack of awareness and guidance at schools on the importance of having more females in engineering to represent the diversity in our society. It’s still believed to be a masculine career path, but now with workplaces implementing more flexible working hours it’s become easier for women to pursue an engineering career.”
“Empowering women is key to increasing confidence in the workplace, enabling them to draw on each other’s strengths and be acknowledged for their achievements,” agrees Marianne Dsouza, chief people & culture officer. Implementing a flexible working policy is one way to achieve this, allowing mothers to return from maternity leave, with more options available to them. For some women, work does not finish when they leave the office. As Alexandra Simakova, Regional Sales Manager – Europe Operations, notes: “Women across all industries need the confidence and support to help them in critical and stressful situations, as when they go home, they are often working the ‘second shift’ as a wife or mother, too.”
“For me it’s also important to look to inspirational women in business,” says Nadia. “Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, has been my personal inspiration throughout my career, for her ability to juggle her family life and spearhead an extraordinarily successful business.”
Closer to home
While the demographic across the processing and packaging sector is slowly evolving, it’s clear there is more that can be done to ensure women have a firmer foothold. A well-known figure across the packaging industry, Nadia shares her thoughts: “Being a female entrepreneur in this industry has been a very positive experience. As a business leader, wife and mother, I would like to motivate others to follow their dreams and inspire change to enable greater gender equality, so that more and more women can reap the benefits of the rewarding experiences such as those I’ve had during my career.”
For more information on International Women’s Day, follow our Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook feeds for more insights from the team on what #EachforEqual means to them.
 Women in Packaging UK, last accessed: https://wearetechwomen.com/female-visibility-is-critical-in-stem-careers-but-how-do-we-engage-male-colleagues-effectively/