A higher representation of women in senior positions at various organizations across the world has proven to deliver stronger organization and financial performance as well as a better corporate governance. Considering the fact that women make up 50 percent of the labor force (in manufacturing their representation is only about 24 percent), starting an open dialogue with men and women about closing the gender gap is crucial to the future of any organization.
Because men hold more than 85 percent of top executive positions and 96 percent of CEO positions, they play a critical role in advancing gender diversity in the workplace. Benny Ortega is Jabil’s Senior Director of Operations for Europe as well as a proud supporter and a Steering Committee member of Jabil Joules Europe. Jabil Joules is a program that aims to educate, mentor and encourage networking and dialogue about diversity at Jabil. Benny believes that men have an important role in driving equality at work and is passional that this is an issue that everyone should care about.
Why do you think it is that important to have a diverse, gender-balanced workplace?
This is an initiative that is past-due; it is something we need to do to help improve diversity across the organization. For me, it is not only about gender balance, it’s about diversity. I think organizations that are diverse perform better. When you have only one thought or one idea you can´t stay competitive. In our business you have to constantly find ideas and go after them. So gender-balanced environment is for me the easiest first step to get there. Of course, we also have to think about cultural diversity, race and religion, but as a first step all of the continents have the baseline of gender-balanced opportunity. It is the most common denominator through the globalism within Jabil.
How can we create a gender-balanced environment, encouraging a dialogue about this topic without alienating men?
There is always the risk that you push too hard on one side and you lose the balance. What this specific initiative needs is a “communication visibility.” To create a better balance, we first have to understand that we do not have a balance today. But as we start to talk about that and get visibility of the actions around that we are on the best path to create more balance. It is about communication, it is about visibility, it’s about having a goal and a vision. The goal and vision has to be about balance and diversity – that is what we need to strive for! Today, we are not there and I would like to get to the problem with men on the supporting side.
Who are the most inspiring women you met during your career at Jabil? What have you learned from them and how did this affect your working environment?
This is a great question and here I would like to start with my Mom. I am very, very fortunate that my Mom is MY Mom. She taught me so much! What she did and how she managed to do so much and just by herself coming from a humble background. She had a couple of kids and she was a single mother. To see what she was able to do with very little and how my brother and I turned up, that to me is the baseline. At work, someone that inspires me is Patricia Lim. Patricia has ran some large business relationships for us in Asia with our largest customers and is extremely impressive. Now she is looking over the Business Management group globally. She is just impressive because the way she is able to work with the people and get results, find solutions and is just a great person above all else. Patricia is definitely a woman that stands out for me.
What is the biggest obstacle for women in the workplace today? What can we do to remove it?
The obstacle I see is more of a psychological one than a physical object standing in front of woman versus man today. I think there is a predisposition in our workforce, because there’s so many men in our business that men tend to lean on other men. Women, for example, do not go after opportunities as hard because they look and see that there aren’t a lot of women in some of these positions. This is what I think we need to get past – the psychological part. We are not putting enough focus on this, hence is our biggest obstacle. Communicating that, for us to be successful, we need women to be in management is the first step and we need to remove the obstacles. Because being diverse is not a “nice to have” any more, it is a requirement for our competitiveness! Women bring new ideas and provide solutions and that balance in our leadership is what makes us better.
Why, in your opinion, is there still a gender gap in our working environment?
I think if you look at the demographics at the workforce today versus a hundred years ago a lot more women are working. It is a historical legacy issue, women were not always working and it takes time to evolve all these changes. It will be a long way to get balance in our working environment and we have to create quantum leap. Manufacturing is not always the most glamourous type of work, which means for us that the women that we have in our workforce within Jabil are heavily connected towards functions such as finance, human resource or communications, but diversity means diverse across all of the functions. I´d like to see more women leaders in engineering as well, so why are we where we are – I do not claim to have the answer. I will say that as a team we have to strive for balance across all the functions across all the organization because we know it is better for our long-term sustainability.
How can we encourage people to go beyond the stereotypes? What are some practical steps that can change that?
In my opinion, we need to look at the individuals and do not want to pocket groups into stereotypes. We have just been discussing about which people stand out for me, I talked about individuals and what we need to do as an organization, as leaders and as a group is to find who are the individuals that are standing out. Once we’ve found those folks we have to find out how we can help them get on path so that they do not get grouped to stereotypes and they do not get limited. As an organization, we really have a responsibility to identify those folks and support them in their development. As a practical step, I would mention the process that we use to review our talent. We really need to select who are the men and women, future leaders, and really invest in them. We have to put a little extra attention today on the women because there is a gender imbalance, but the process still needs to be a process.
Benny Ortega is Jabil’s Sr. Director of Operations, Europe EMS. Benny joined Jabil in 2001 as part of Jabil’s “Jabil Emerging Leader” (J.E.L.) program, has served in many roles across all of Jabil’s major Divisions: Jabil Green Point, Nypro and Healthcare, and has a vast experience working internationally. Benny earned a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering, a Master of Science in Management, and a Master’s of Engineering from the University of Florida.