Sanofi Drives Gender Equality for Better Women Representation
Company plans to build a leadership pipeline of women at the top through mentoring and sponsoring
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%