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Confronting Women's Role in the Labor Force and Empowerment Challenges. Report on the "International Women's Week” panel session

April 15, 2024

Since last year, the Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan Group has designated the week of International Women's Day (March 8) as "International Women's Week." During this week we hold events to discuss the advancement of women's careers and initiatives to promote female empowerment.

One of these events was a panel session on Women's Empowerment, held on March 5.

■ Achieving 100% Paternity Leave Uptake by 2025 for a More Inclusive Workplace

The session began with a message from our President Calin Dragan.

He acknowledged the ratio of female managers in our company (7.4% in 2023) and hoped this week would prompt discussions on making our company more attractive for women's active participation. Mr. Dragan highlighted paternity leave as crucial, with an 83.3% acquisition rate by our male employees in 2023. We aim for 100% paternity leave acquisition by 2025, recognizing childcare as a shared responsibility.

"Child rearing should be performed by both parents in cooperation. With that in mind, the paternity leave rate should naturally be 100%. Based on this understanding, our group is aiming to see all the male employees who become fathers to newborns take paternity leave by 2025." In addition to laying out this specific target, he called for the cooperation of every employee to help achieve this goal, suggesting that "all of us must recognize each other and work together to build a workplace where everyone feels valued, respected, and supported. Let's join hands to create a diverse and inclusive workplace where each and every one of us can demonstrate our full potential!"

■ What can we do to increase the ratio of female managers?
Talk session with workforce leaders

Following this video message, a talk session was moderated by Chief Human Resources Officer Yuki Higashi, with three panelists, all of whom are shop-floor or field operation leaders.

Yuki Higashi, Executive Officer, Chief Human Resources Officer and Head of HR & General Affairs

Regarding the group's aim to raise the proportion of female managers to 20% by 2030, Yosuke Hamada, Head of National Sales Division, highlighted the current number of female managers in the Commercial function, emphasizing the challenge ahead and the necessity for a strategic plan. Hiroyuki Ohshima, Head of Plant Division, stressed the importance of fostering a supportive workplace environment and promoting women's career advancement as part of the company's efforts.

To boost the proportion of female managers, Hamada outlines concrete steps taken by the Commercial function, including "mixed-gender manager appointments" and "support for newly appointed managers." He elaborates, stating, "We're focused on fostering a culture of embracing challenges. For instance, we supported a hesitant female leader in transitioning to a managerial role by initially assigning her to lead a small team. This experience bolstered her confidence, demonstrating our commitment to nurturing talent. Personally, I believe challenges can be overcome with the right approach. My goal is to cultivate an environment where career paths are not limited by any barriers."

Yutaka Shimizu, Head of Integrated Supply Chain Division in SCM, emphasized the importance of creating a comfortable workplace environment. He noted that the ability to work from home has significantly contributed to this comfort. Since 2022, the SCM function has been focused on an initiative to increase the number of female employees prepared for managerial roles. This effort has resulted in the promotion of three female managers in the past year. Support is provided to female non-managers who demonstrate passion and potential for company transformation, while opportunities are offered to those who need to shift their mindset to become ready for managerial positions.

Ohshima commented on the current situation at the plants, noting, "the proportion of women tends to be lower here compared to other workplaces. We've heard feedback from both male and female employees expressing disinterest in pursuing managerial positions in the plants." He attributes this reluctance to "a fear of not understanding the roles and responsibilities of managers." Ohshima revealed an ongoing project in the plants aimed at aiding all members, regardless of gender, in envisioning their career paths more clearly.

Hiroyuki Ohshima, Head of Plant Division, Zao-Saitama Plant Division, SCM

Regarding the feedback from male employees expressing reluctance to pursue managerial roles, Higashi offered her perspective, stating, "Men, too, have various work-style choices, such as taking childcare leave, which may leave them uncertain about their career paths, similar to women." She emphasized that supporting women will ultimately contribute to fostering a more comfortable workplace environment for all employees.

■ Promoting women’s empowerment leads to a workplace where all can play an active role.

The discussion progressed to sharing perspectives on how the organizations represented by the three panelists are encouraging male employees with newborn children to take paternity leave, a topic highlighted by our president in his opening remarks.

Regarding this matter, Ohshima believes that "many hesitate to take paternity leave due to the need for adjusting scheduled shifts, especially in plants operating round the clock. During my secondment to a bottling company in the Philippines, I witnessed a familial atmosphere where colleagues supported each other in times of need. If someone couldn't work, others stepped in to alleviate the burden. I aim to instill this culture in our plants and company. Given the possibility of temporary absences for various reasons like childcare, injury, illness, or caregiving, I envision our members feeling comfortable taking time off and readily supporting each other during such instances as part of our organizational culture."

Hamada, overseeing one of the sales divisions, noted that although some individuals may struggle to take time off due to a strong sense of responsibility, the uptake of paternity leave within his team is on the rise. This increase is attributed to the predictability of childcare leave systems, including paternity leave, which allows the team to anticipate and establish support structures in advance.

Shimizu highlighted that department heads taking paternity leave also benefits their subordinates by providing them with opportunities for growth in their absence. Additionally, returning leaders gain fresh perspectives on field operations and renewed motivation to add value to their teams. He acknowledged that team members may find it challenging to take paid leave due to reluctance to leave assigned tasks. To address this, his organization is implementing measures such as job rotation, multi-skilling, and developing systems to prevent job dependency on specific individual skills.

Yutaka Shimizu, Head of Integrated Supply Chain Division, SCM

He concluded his remarks with a message aimed at fostering the growth of every employee. "When men hear about the promotion of women's empowerment, they may feel excluded or perceive it as solely benefiting women. However, this is not the case. Our goal is to establish an environment where all employees, regardless of gender, can develop together through friendly competition to enhance their skills."

Ohshima echoed this sentiment, expressing his desire to witness all employees showcase their abilities and contribute actively within their organizations. He emphasized the need to establish a new system that empowers individuals to overcome obstacles and encourages managers to lead their teams in effecting positive changes within the company. He eagerly anticipated collaborating with everyone to drive company-wide transformation efforts within such a framework.

Hamada directed a special message to female employees, expressing his aspiration to cultivate an environment where everyone feels empowered to embrace new values and pursue fresh challenges. He highlighted the existence of branch offices without female members and extended support to women willing to join predominantly male environments, emphasizing their integral role in shaping the company's envisioned future. He reassured them of continuous support in building that future together.

Yosuke Hamada, Head of National Sales Division. Retail Company, Commercial

Ms. Higashi emphasized that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) encompasses the inherent diversity present in all employees, recognizing that each individual possesses unique attributes such as age, career background, and departmental affiliations. She clarified that the core principle of DE&I is to leverage these differences and perspectives as strengths to create an inclusive workplace. Concluding the talk session, she reiterated the HR team's commitment to collaborating with everyone to enhance the workplace environment, acknowledging the varying support needs across different sites.

The approximately hour-long panel session concluded, streamed exclusively for internal members via an online communication network and witnessed by numerous employees. It proved to be a valuable opportunity to listen to voices from the shop floor and gain insights into the diverse initiatives fostering women's empowerment. We remain committed to leveraging the promotion of women's empowerment as a catalyst for our ongoing endeavors to create a workplace where everyone can thrive comfortably.

※Please note that the information contained in this blog is current as of the date of interview. Certain information may have changed since the date of release

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