Leading male executives from PwC, 3M and B.Grimm Power discussed the impact of Covid-19 on the workforce and shared insights on maintaining diversity and strong teams yesterday at a 2022 Global Summit of Women (GSW) forum held in Bangkok entitled "Managing during uncertainties".
The GSW provided statistics that women were disproportionately affected by the pandemic, resulting in the loss of 45 million jobs held by women and the collapse of 20% of female-owned enterprises worldwide.
Sridharan Nair, vice-chairman of Asia-Pacific markets at PwC, said the firm conducted a recent survey of its employees in 80 countries about work habits and preferences.
"Some form of hybrid work is what employees expect going forward. We must deliver that to employees. Also of note is 45% of respondents said they did not have a chance to participate remotely," said Mr Nair.
"For many women, working at home is not a better option. It could be for men, but for some women, that's not the case because some have to look after the children and household at the same time. The impact on women as we move into this work environment is much, much greater, so you need to ensure you do not have proximity bias."
Proximity bias is common in a hybrid workplace, referring to preferential treatment given to those close to our immediate vicinity.
From left are Mr Nair and Mr Link at the session entitled "Managing during uncertainties".
Jim Falteisek, senior vice-president of Asia corporate affairs at 3M, agreed with Mr Nair on avoiding proximity bias.
"There many places in Asia especially where the idea of coming to the office is an important part of managing and evaluation," said Mr Falteisek.
"In Asia, we have spent a lot of time without supervisors and employees, making sure people understand it is a choice."
He said while the workforce is always changing, 3M has not seen a significant difference between men and women in choosing remote or hybrid work.
The heads of PwC and 3M emphasised transparency, especially in terms of setting quotas for female leadership, publishing company reports on gender and diversity inclusion, and ensuring job candidate pools are diverse.
WALK THE TALK
Harald Link, chairman of B.Grimm Power Co, said the most important factor is the company's mission.
"We must do what we do for the betterment of society, and we must care for the people who are with us. Whether working offline or online, we always have to adapt to a new environment and society," said Mr Link.
"Women are often more compassionate, and they play an important role in what our company stands for."
He said B.Grimm Power has female employees in important roles and they make up a healthy majority of the workforce.
WOMEN IN CHARGE
Executives are often asked how they can nurture women to take up a leadership position. Mr Link shared a personal example involving his daughter Caroline Link.
He said just because someone is being groomed to take over an executive position, it does not necessarily mean that person will succeed.
Mr Link asked his two children early on if either of them had any interest in becoming his successor at B.Grimm. Caroline expressed her willingness, while his son, Felix Link, said he would prefer to follow a more spiritual path.
This showed Caroline had the first component -- a passion for leading, Mr Link said.
Caroline received an education in four arenas: earning a business degree, learning how to be a good shareholder, understanding the importance of service as a compassionate board member, and seeing how B.Grimm's operations are run inside out.
These steps are crucial to building a successful leader, he said.
Mr Link said he is proud of Caroline because she excels at not only being a great leader, but also a wife and mother to three children.