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Equity Focus: Turning The Tide On Workplace ImbalancesHomeNews Equity focus: turning the tide on workplace imbalances


According to the World Bank development indicators, women made up less than 50% of the global workforce in 2019 and in South Africa, a recent PWC report revealed that only 3.3% of the companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange have females in chief executive positions.

Within this milieu, Rhulani Nhlaniki, Country Manager at Pfizer South Africa said that for Pfizer, Women’s Month means affirming its commitment to its core value of equity which means that everyone deserves to be seen, heard and cared for, and for celebrating its journey in diversity and inclusion.

To date, women make up 73% (183 out of 248 employees) of the company’s total headcount in South Africa and out of 15 executive management positions, 10 are occupied by women (67%).

“Women in executive roles in the business play a vital role in shaping our talent pipeline which is made up of women in senior roles across our commercial, human resources, supply chain, medical, regulatory, and corporate affairs & communications divisions who are committed to mentoring and developing aspiring leaders,” said Nhlaniki.

“In addition, they are responsible for strategic decisions that allow the company to achieve its purpose, which is to deliver breakthroughs that change patients’ lives. Some of these women also serve on external advisory boards, extending their reach and influence beyond our doors into the greater sector,” he added.

Over the past 18 months, five women have joined our executive team, added Nhlaniki. “Three of these are new recruits and two of the appointments are previous Pfizer employees, who left us to pursue development opportunities and have now re-joined us at an executive level.”

In consultation with Pfizer’s Employment Equity Committee, targets for representation and participation are established by Pfizer’s CEO and HR Director, who are both passionate about driving diversity and inclusion within the business. The various business units are then held accountable for driving the equity agenda and ensuring the company meets its employment equity targets.

With a strong focus on growth and development, Pfizer places a significant emphasis on individual development plans, which incorporate on-the-job projects, access to mentorship opportunities and peer learning, executive coaching when the need arises as well as strategic secondments and stretch assignments both locally and internationally.

As part of its internal Women’s Month initiatives, which focus on the themes of leadership, growth and wellness, Pfizer has selected five women to be part of Deloitte’s virtual Authentic Women in Leadership programme.

The women, who had to motivate why they should form part of the programme and how they would disseminate the learnings amongst their teams, will attend a series of four virtual interactive sessions where they will gain insight into how to operate optimally, find purpose in what they do and enhance individual, team and greater organisational success.

Pfizer is acutely aware that the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has entrenched workplace inequalities in some quarters and that many women are struggling to juggle the roles of employee, spouse, parent and educator.

In this respect, it recently partnered with other major corporate players – Accenture, AECI, Aspen, Business Engage, Imperial, Nedbank and RMB – to host the third annual Voices for Change conference on 7 August, which encouraged men and women to play leading roles on gender parity in the workplace. Themed ‘Individually strong, collectively powerful’, the event was also aimed at inspiring organisations to work together towards common goals.

Notably, Pfizer’s reach extends beyond its own orbit and the company has partnered with Unjani, an organisation that has established sustainable primary healthcare clinics throughout South Africa and empowered more than 58 female professional nurses, created jobs for in excess of 200 people and provided alternative access to quality primary healthcare at affordable prices in some of the country’s most underserved areas.

With more than 807 000 consultations conducted at 70 clinics throughout South Africa, Unjani clinics offer healthcare education in addition to primary healthcare services such as vision screenings, wellness services, chronic and disease management.

Nhlaniki explains that Pfizer places great value on the power of partnerships. “We believe that our corporate responsibilities extend far beyond the medicines that we discover and develop. Our Unjani partnership is one example of a partnership that aims to improve access to healthcare and strengthen health systems in South Africa.”

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