Cultivating Cultural Change

Some of the greatest challenges for gender diversity are cultural. At some Jabil sites, innovative and creative programs have been developed to help change local cultural barriers for gender equality. Two sub-regional winning projects from this year’s Deliver Best Practices Competition have undertaken the challenge of surpassing cultural barriers for female empowerment. The Social and Environmental Responsibility submissions from Penang, Malaysia and Guadalajara, Mexico demonstrated two very different yet effective means of educating and empowering women along with inspiring gender awareness throughout their sites.

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Penang’s “Women Wellness” project led by Reanuga Subramaniam utilizes awareness training modules to enlighten and enhance female workers’ knowledge on sexual reproductive health rights which includes educating employees about sexually transmitted diseases and HIV. The focus on education at the site stems from the fact that 55 percent of the workforce at Penang are women and the local culture avoids talking about the issues of sexual reproductive health. Additionally, the team believes that women are “the key members of the community to institute the knowledge because they are not only Jabil employees but also mothers, daughters, sisters or aunts in the family, and our awareness education can multiply the impact.”

So how did Penang implement this education program? The team organized a Jabil peer educator program with training provided by the Penang Family Health Development Association. Starting with the direct labor female workforce, these peer educators work with fellow employees at peer education sessions where employees participate in small group activities to apply knowledge from training modules, and afterwards receive a souvenir with a take away message as means to further spread awareness.

The results of the program have been fantastic. The team reported a constant increase in employees coming forward to be part of the training program, awareness activity such as the site’s annual World Aids Day has seen an increase in participation, and more importantly the team has seen a 10-30 percent increase in knowledge of various sexual reproductive health issues. This has led to a 200 percent increase in employee participation of internal health programs for breast examination and Pap smear exams. However, the Penang team’s work still continues as they move to educate all Penang employees, including men, and even aiding other Jabil sites with implementing a similar program.

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A Guadalajara team, led by Georgina De Loza, created the project “Women Empowered” as a means to address the leadership gender gap, where only 15 percent of leadership positions are held by women.  Guadalajara’s approach was educating and enhancing women’s leadership skills in order to prepare them for their next leadership position. Not only is the project intended to close the gender leadership gap, but to address the cultural gender stereotypes and gender biases. According to the UN only 32 percent of women are part of the formal workforce in Mexico, which influenced the team to increase gender awareness with their project and encourage the spread of gender diversity within the community.

As a response to these issues in gender diversity at Guadalajara, the “Women Empowered” project initiated policies, events, and networking to address some of the root causes for the lack of female leadership. A flexitime policy was enacted to address work-life balance issues. The professional skills development concern was addressed through a development and mentorship committee and by encouraging prospective female leaders to participate in the site’s leadership development program, Jabilider. In regards to female self-confidence to take the next step and to address the culture, the team provided networking and development events and worked with their senior management to encourage female skills development. To achieve these programs, Georgina and her team worked with numerous female development industrial groups such as the High Tech Industry Women’s Commission (COMIAT in Spanish) and IBM’s Women In Action group.

The results of their work has led to a 7 percent increase of internal applications for leadership positions from women from fiscal year 2015’s first quarter to its third quarter. Twelve women were identified as top talent, three of whom have reached their next position in their area, two are now managers, and one is an assistant manager. The attendance for the Women Empowered events and programs reached 95 percent of women in indirect labor. As for the community, the team has worked with Intel as sponsors for the first Latin America Summit of Women in Technology by IEEE and multiple non-profit organizations that focus on social and economic development of women.

These two outstanding projects have educated and inspired the empowerment of women to take action in the careers and their health. Together these teams are combating former gender stigmatism and creating gender awareness in their sites that spills out into their local communities. In the spirit of continuous improvement, both groups have plans for further expansion of their gender diversity awareness programs at Jabil and into the community.

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