Five ways for a company to embrace equity  

Two years ago, AkzoNobel first signed the Women’s Empowerment Principles. Now on International Women’s Day 2023, with a new CEO ready to carry on the commitment, we’re reflecting on what it really means for a company to sign this document – because it’s not just a photo op. “Signing the Women’s Empowerment Principles is a natural extension of the AkzoNobel culture and the way we operate,” says Greg Poux-Guillaume, AkzoNobel CEO. “We are making encouraging progress towards gender equality, but it remains an ongoing journey from which we will not deviate. We owe it to ourselves, to our partners and to our communities.” Here’s a brief overview of five ways we’re building a more diverse and inclusive company:

1. Increase leadership diversity

AkzoNobel’s leaders understand the importance of representation that reflects the diversity of our organization. We’ve set a goal of achieving 30% female representation in senior executive roles by 2025. Currently, at 25%, we’re well on our way to increasing that number.

Diverse leadership teams bring a range of perspectives and experiences that help us make better decisions and respond more effectively to changing market conditions. So as part of striving for 50-50 gender representation in executive recruitment, we require hiring managers to put together diverse interview panels.

2. Mind the gender pay gap

We believe in equal pay for equal work – and we can prove it.

In 2022, an external review of our compensation practice found that after correcting for background variables, the annual pay gap was just 0.9% in favour of men. We’ll continue to review the data and our practices to do what we can to get even closer to equal pay.

3. Develop and retain female talent

A rebuild of our talent performance framework is currently underway to provide our top talent with more career growth opportunities. Designed through the lens of diversity and inclusion, special care is being taken to prevent bias.

Globally, many resources are already in place to make sure our work environments are inclusive and welcoming to all, including a D&I toolkit, team workshops and an ambassador network.

We’re also making structural improvements, with a €400,000 budget allocated to improve women’s facilities in our manufacturing and supply chain locations. This includes projects to enhance bathrooms, showers and changing rooms, as well as create lactation rooms. Smaller improvements can also have a big impact – for instance, we now advise our sites to provide properly fitted workwear for female employees.

4. Foster employee networks

Our employee-driven Women Inspired Network connects people of all genders who are interested in advancing gender equality. 

Organized into local chapters, the network is a place to learn, grow and empower each other to drive change. For example, our India chapter invited local leaders to reverse-mentor women, increasing awareness of gender-related challenges. For this International Women’s Day, an online event about parenting and work will encourage conversation at our sites around the world.

5. Empower women in local communities

One of our 2030 ambitions is to empower more than 100,000 people with new skills – including programs tailored specifically to women.

In Brazil, our “Mulheres na Cor” (Women in Color) program helps women transform their lives by breaking into the traditionally male-dominated vehicle refinishes and decorative paints industries. In another initiative, we started working with more than 500 women in rural India to promote entrepreneurship in decorative paints.

Our journey to gender equity continues

The five areas listed above represent just a few of the actions we’re taking to promote gender quality at AkzoNobel and in the communities where we operate. We’re highly motivated to keep learning and growing in this journey together – that’s embracing equity.

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