In November, 2018 Reckitt Benckiser (RB) Pakistan launched the HeDaresSheDares initiative to encourage employees to share their stories about supporting and empowering women. The initiative is part of RB’s global DARE programme launched in 2015, which aims to Develop, Attract, Retain and Engage women in the workforce.
Providing details on the DARE programme, Munazza Kasmani, Head of Learning and Development for Developing Markets, RB, and leader of the programme says that “although women constitute 50% of the hires at entry level, as they progress through various career stages, their number starts
to dwindle, especially at mid-manager level, the time when the majority tend to make long-term decisions about marriage, family or work, or both.”
To address this issue, RB, in partnership with McKinsey & Company, conducted a survey to understand the reasons behind this decline and according to the results, the four main reasons why women were quitting at mid-management level were the lack of work-life balance, family-supportive policies, internal network support and a non-supportive work culture. These pain points resulted in HR policy interventions as a result of which, in 2015, RB gave fathers paternity leave and options for flexible working to their employees. At the same time, the DARE programme was launched and included training and mentoring programmes for women in middle-management.
In 2016-17, the DARE programme introduced the Lean In Circle, a network whereby women working for RB Pakistan would get together every two months to discuss ideas aimed at supporting women, not only within the organisation but outside as well. For example, the Lean In Circle invited the Lyari boxing girls’ team to RB’s office and trained them in negotiation and communication skills and in return, learned self-defence techniques from the girls.
As a result of these changes, the percentage of women in the RB leadership team grew from five percent in 2015 to 23.5% in 2017 and the men-to-women ratio at an overall organisational level went from 97:3 in 2015 to 85:15 in 2017.
However, during this three year journey, Kasmani noted that “we somehow alienated the men because all the programmes were so focused on women. We had not taken the men along and DARE was perceived as a women’s only programme. For Kasmani, it is important to include men in the conversation because they hold the majority of the senior positions and if the aim is to create a bigger movement, they cannot be sidelined. “You have to leverage them, be they fathers, brothers or husbands as support systems. They need to buy into this philosophy; otherwise it is difficult to move the needle.”
As a result, the HeDaresSheDares campaign was launched to actively engage men in the conversation in terms of how they have inspired or supported women in the workforce or made them break stereotypes. The conversation went beyond their colleagues to include daughters, sisters and wives.
The campaign was conducted on LinkedIn. “The idea was that Rakesh Kapoor, CEO, RB (Global), would dare a younger colleague to share his or her story. But we flipped it and said how about a younger colleague daring the CEO instead to share a story,” says Kasmani. Therefore four people (men and women) from different markets were selected (including one from Pakistan) and asked to share their stories on video on LinkedIn after which they tagged and dared Kapoor to share his. Kapoor obliged and then dared another five women and so it continued. “It was like the Ice Bucket Challenge.”
As it was a voluntary campaign, no one was forced to participate. Nevertheless, the campaign turned out to be an immense success and a total of 450 stories have so far been received from around the world, of which about 15 are from Pakistan. Furthermore, over 2,000 employees were tagged and more men compared to women participated.
Although the plan had been to end the campaign on International Men’s Day (November 19), Kasmani intends to let it grow and take its natural course. “The campaign has grown organically. If people want to share stories and everybody is inspired, why stop it?”
In Kasmani’s opinion, the success of the HeDaresSheDares campaign will help RB become top-of-mind in terms of a prospective organisation to work for and will encourage women to apply, although she adds that the campaign alone will not help retain them in the organisation and more needs to be done. Her next project is to create a dialogue about gender diversity and inclusion. “If you work for RB, you should feel you belong there and my next objective is to encourage diverse opinions by including all nationalities, regions, sexual orientations and disabilities and imbibe them with a sense of belonging at RB.”