Sanofi Drives Gen­der Equal­ity for Bet­ter Women Rep­re­sen­ta­tion

Com­pany plans to build a lead­er­ship pipe­line of women at the top through men­tor­ing and spon­sor­ing

The Economic Times - - Career & Business Life - Rica.Bhat­tacharyya@ times­

Mum­bai: A lit­tle over a year ago, when a top ex­ec­u­tive of French pharma com­pany Sanofi called a hud­dle be­fore the launch of a fe­male hy­giene prod­uct in In­dia, he re­alised that all those work­ing on the prod­uct were males. “We looked around the room and the six peo­ple work­ing on the project were all men. The real hard mes­sage we took that day was if it is such a spe­cific women’s prod­uct, there needs to be some­body who feels that and can have a dis­cus­sion around that prod­uct,” said Gau­rav Ba­hadur, se­nior di­rec­tor of hu­man re­sources for In­dia & South Asia at Sanofi. Since then the pharma com­pany has em­barked upon a jour­ney to im­prove the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women in its work­force, with fo­cus across field staff level and also build­ing a lead­er­ship pipe­line of women at the top through men­tor­ing and spon­sor­ing.

In its to­tal field force of 2,000 med­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives, women now com­prise 6%, dou­ble of what it was a year ago. At the head of­fice and re­gional level, Sanofi has 4060% women; at the CXO level it is 20-30%. Like a typ­i­cal pharma com­pany, Sanofi is a sales heavy or­gan­i­sa­tion, and field staff com­prise 80-85% of the com­pany’s work­force.

“We had two facts glar­ing at us. One was that 50% of the med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als pass­ing out to­day is women which is our cus­tomer and 70% of daily health­care de­ci­sion is taken by the mother or the woman in the house. And we wanted to take gen­der di­ver­sity as a pri­or­ity with the busi­ness case,” Ba­hadur said.

About a year ago, Sanofi in­vited the en­tire field force to Mum­bai, and the com­pany’s lead­er­ship was present too. “We got suc­cess­ful women en­trepreneurs and pro­fes­sion­als as role mod­els and there were suc­cess sto­ries ses­sions. There were open ses­sions where peo­ple spoke. That was the ig­nit­ing fac­tor how the whole thing be­gan,” Ba­hadur said.

In early 2015, ‘Sanofi South Asia Di­ver­sity Board’ was con­sti­tuted by a cross-func­tional lead­er­ship team to carve out an agenda fo­cused on in­creas­ing the re­cruit­ment, devel­op­ment and re­ten­tion of women em­ploy­ees. “This ap­proach en­sured that both men and women em­ploy­ees un­der­stood the sub­ject and were re­spon­si­ble for tak­ing in­di­vid­ual ac­tion,” he said.

The team com­prised se­nior lead­ers in­clud­ing the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor and south Asia head, HR head, CFO, three busi­ness lead­ers – gen­eral man­ager pharma and con­sumer health­care, gen­eral man­ager vac­cines busi­ness and the coun­try head for Bangladesh.

The board started look­ing at the poli­cies and the sug­ges­tions that were com­ing in and soon it be­came an HR and busi­ness joint ven­ture to present enough women can­di­dates, and given ev­ery­thing be­ing equal, pref­er­ence was given to the fe­male can­di­date.

The board’s agenda was re­cently widened and the com­pany started putting in place poli­cies and en­ablers. It ran a dip­stick sur­vey and re­alised that there was need to work at the mind­set level.

At the head of­fice and re­gional level, Sanofi has 40-60% women; at the CXO level it is 20-30%

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