Given that we’re moving into the year 2017, phenomena such as occupational sexism, wage discrimination and glass ceilings should, by now, have been firmly relegated to the history section of sociology books.
Sadly, not only are these phenomena not yet obsolete, but they regularly make the front pages of local newspapers, with the Times of Malta recently quoting Eurostat figures which show that women working for a year in Malta will earn the equivalent of six weeks less than men.
Figures quoted in the latest Global Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum last month, paint an even direr picture. Malta ranks 108 out of 144 countries, trailing behind countries such as Gambia, Kazakhstan, Senegal and Vietnam.
The report is an annual benchmarking exercise that measures progress towards parity between men and women in four areas: educational attainment, health and survival, economic opportunity and political empowerment. The report also estimates that it will take 117 years to achieve global gender parity in the workplace.
One of the main obstacles hindering women from entering the labour market – as identified by the European Commission in its roadmap – is the lack of flexible working arrangements which would permit them to balance work and family responsibilities.
This need is accentuated by the uneven distribution of work and family responsibilities between men and women, compelling women to have more frequent career breaks.
Progressive organisations recognise the need to support their workforce to minimise stress levels and burnout, and to consequently maximize work performance. The theory Vodafone Malta operates on is a simple one: if you care for your people, your people will care for you, but if people feel unappreciated or unhappy at work, the anxiety manifests into ill health, low motivation, low productivity and absenteeism.
Vodafone has therefore made it a point to introduce initiatives to create a family-friendly workplace in order to help employees achieve a better work-life balance. Our Human Resources Department also busies itself with reviewing employees’ benefits and rewards annually to ensure that there is no wage discrimination between male and female employees.
The dearth of flexible working arrangements in Malta, such as telework and flexitime, was recently manifested following a press conference on women in employment held by Employment Minister Evarist Bartolo and Social Dialogue Minister Helena Dalli at Vodafone’s headquarters at SkyParks Business Centre. During the press conference, Vodafone’s policies were highlighted, resulting in a spike in the number of queries from people wishing to ‘work from home’.
Flexible working is about providing people with the tools to do their jobs in smarter ways, along with the technologies to be more flexible about how and where they work and the skills to react to changing customer needs.
A survey with 8,000 employers and employees from different companies around the world conducted by Vodafone Group earlier this year, revealed that the majority of respondents believed that flexible working boosted company profits and productivity. A minority of 22 per cent held on to the stubbornly ingrained stereotype that employees would not work as hard if allowed to adopt flexible working patterns and technologies.
While those respondents without flexible working policies in place were clear on the reasons why their organisations had not yet pursued these, even within this group there was a clear sense that reversing their organisation’s position would deliver benefits. Central to all of this are the new technologies that are reshaping every sector, from high-speed mobile data networks and fixed-line broadband to the latest collaborative cloud services.
Wholesale Senior Executive Melissa Camilleri, mother to a four-year-old boy, articulates the impact which flexible working and teleworking have on her ability to juggle her career with motherhood: “Teleworking is invaluable, especially on those occasions when my son falls sick. I can keep on working from home and attend to my son’s needs while still meeting my deadlines. Flexible working also means that I have the liberty of taking my son to the doctor’s should the need arise, and to continue working upon my return.”
In addition, Vodafone has revolutionised maternity leave for its female employees by offering 17 weeks of fully paid leave to new mothers – an extra three weeks over and above the statutory entitlement. Upon return from maternity, females benefit from six months on reduced hours of 30 hours per week whilst maintaining full salary and benefits applicable for 40 hours.
Perhaps if policies such as extended maternity leave and flexible working went from fringe benefits to mainstream acceptance, we would not need to wait a century to achieve equality in the workplace.
VODAFONE MALTA IN NUMBERS
- Vodafone Malta has a female CEO
- 50 per cent of the executive committee team is female
- 25 per cent of the senior management team is female
- 46 per cent of the total workforce is female