United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres recently made a startling announcement.
Addressing the UN Commission on the Status of Women held ahead of International Women's Day, observed globally on March 8, Guterres said that gender equality is "300 years away."
While the UN secretary general did not elaborate on how this figure was reached, his message was clear: Significant gender gaps remain on a global scale in nearly every area of life.
From individuals to startups and corporations to governments, Guterres said the world must act to promote women's rights, inclusion, and gender equality.
Israel is no exception. While there is great awareness of the issues of diversity, inclusion, and gender equality in Israel there is still much progress to be made. Currently only 26% of Israel's Knesset, or parliament are women and Israel is ranked 93rd in representation of women among 192 countries. No woman has served in any of the most senior political positions in the last decade, and a recent report by the Central Bureau of Statistics found that in the business sector women accounted for only 31.8% of all managerial positions.
In light of these figures, The Jerusalem Post sat down with Eli Sagiv, CEO of L’Oreal Israel, a company that has in recent years pivoted to actively promote diversity, inclusion, and gender equality on a global scale.
There is a growing awareness in both the public and private spheres, of the importance of gender equality and representation, how is this reflected in today’s business world?
It’s important to talk about women’s rights and representation. Not just for International Women's Day, but all year round. But what can we do that the media buzz around March 8 allows us to "increase the volume" on this important issue, and thus we find ourselves dealing with it again and again, with the aim of raising awareness and improving women’s representation in all areas.
We are frequent witnesses to studies that on the one hand point to large gaps in women’s representation in broad social aspects (politics, economics, senior management positions, boards of directors, etc.), and on the other hand point to the importance of the inclusion of women in key positions, and the added value that this brings.
Many organizations adopt a concept of gender equality that is expressed through a constant striving to be represented by a rich human diversity among their employees and management, from the entire spectrum of the population. Such variety, studies indicate, is necessary for any company to thrive and be innovative, by reflecting its consumer base and giving them an accurate response to their needs.
For example, at L'Oréal Israel, in practice women are promoted to senior leadership positions, with the senior management consisting of 50% women. The General Manager of the Luxury Division Aya Monk, was the youngest woman appointed to this prestigious position. Anne Hirsch, VP Supply Chain, was the first woman appointed to the position in Israel after it had been considered for years as a "male" position. The vice presidents of digital, communications and human resources are also held by women, as are many positions at middle management levels. This isn’t a coincidence. It originates from a systematic approach at L'Oréal, and a strategy that advocates diversity and inclusion.
As a global beauty company that primarily caters to women, what steps has L’Oreal Israel taken to promote diversity, inclusion, and gender equality?
The same studies reveal that having diverse employees, at all levels of the organization, is a necessary condition to enrich societal discourse, to bring to the fore different voices and cultures, and to make room for different and diverse work and management styles. Such a company also allows diverse consumers to identify with it and its products, and attracts a wider customer base.
The Forbes report annually ranks and publishes the 500 most inclusive and balanced organizations in the United States, both in terms of gender and in terms of ethnic background. The report said that companies that have excelled in having diverse and balanced employees in terms of gender and sector also excel in their business achievements, in sales, in expanding their circle of customers, in profits and assets and in creating value for their shareholders.
Sectoral and gender balance is something that is also reflected in the global beauty giant L’Oréal.
As a company that aims to create beauty that moves the world, and as a company that believes in the close and inseparable connection between outer beauty and inner beauty – L’Oreal has made it its mission to promote gender diversity and equality. As such, with this vision, the company recently conducted an examination of the salary levels of both men and women in similar positions throughout the company and found them to be equal.
Another move in a long series of actions was taken to ensure that there is no discrimination of any kind both on the gender and sectoral level, and that the pipeline, i.e. the recruitment program, includes an equal number of women and men, in order to give everyone an equal opportunity to progress.
Do your brands take a stand, as is customary today, and how do they express the mission of promoting gender equality?
Gender equality can be promoted not only as part of human resource practices, but also as part of a brand's marketing activity. More and more brands are taking on social or environmental agendas, and with these, the brand is identified by its very core values and it’s with these that it seeks to be identified by the brand's consumers. Moreover, it has been proven that consumers will tend to prefer brands that promote a certain social or environmental goal over other brands.
An example is the L'Oréal Paris brand, which promotes worldwide the issue of women’s empowerment and among this, preventing sexual harassment in the public sphere. The brand, which is supported by specialized social organizations in all 150 countries in which it operates, sends a message to its consumers – that it cares about the issue and is actively working to this end by allocating many resources and cooperating with specialized organizations, such as the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel.
Together, the brand and the association conduct workshops for tens of thousands of people a year regarding ways to prevent sexual harassment in the public sphere, a phenomenon that robs a woman of her self-worth and leads to exclusion from the public sphere and, consequently, to a lack of representation.
Which women's organizations does L’Oréal Israel support and why did you choose them?
L’Oréal has always supported women. It has been doing so for over 100 years since the founding of the company, through hundreds of social programs and allocating millions of euros to various social causes that deal with the advancement of women.
Here in Israel, we focused on several areas:
Establishment of voluntary care centers in sick and disabled centers - hospitals, rehabilitation centers, occupational day centers for women with disabilities and more.
Support for women's organizations that support the most vulnerable women in society - through generous financial support that allows them to promote various activities for the advancement and empowerment of women.
Support for the Girls in Science program, which encourages the promotion of girls to study science in high school and to choose science as a profession later in life.
The issues of women’s right and gender equality will not be solved overnight, but with growing awareness as to the benefits of gender equality and with more and more companies adopting inclusive and diverse policies, we are on the right track to diminishing the gaps and L’Oreal Israel is proud to be taking part in creating a better future for men and women alike.
This article was written in cooperation with L’Oreal