Seeing beyond gender to the individual is key to bringing balance—and success—to business

08 Mar 2024 · 4 min read
At PMI, we’re calling on every employee to champion the unique strengths and perspectives exhibited by female colleagues as we strive to level the playing field and build an organization fit to deliver a smoke-free future.
Mimi Kurniawan, Chief Diversity Officer, Philip Morris International

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Mimi Kurniawan, Chief Diversity Officer, Philip Morris International

Group of women looking at camera

Have you ever fallen into the trap of judging someone unfavorably solely because you perceive them to be different to you?

If so, and you’ve made a concerted effort to acknowledge and address such biases, you’ll be able to appreciate the adversities women have historically faced in the workplace.

Put simply, in the male-packed corridors and conference rooms of the not-too-distant-past (and, in some cases, present), we had it tough.

Finally, the balance is beginning to shift, but there’s still a long way to go until women—who comprise 50 percent of the world’s population and, therefore, brain power and innovative thinking—are treated and viewed equally.

As employees—women, men, and other gender identities—we don’t need to wait for change; we can seize opportunities to take action now and deliver progress as quickly as possible.

Mimi Kurniawan, Chief Diversity Officer,
Philip Morris International

We’re all the same … because we’re all different

One of my key priorities since becoming Chief Diversity Officer in 2023 has been to push this agenda further—which is why, as countries celebrate International Women’s Day, I’m calling on every member of our 79,800-strong workforce to recognize that women, like men, are individuals whose differences should be valued and respected.

This means understanding that, irrespective of gender or any other diverse characteristic, we all have our own backgrounds, our own stories, our own struggles, our own successes and failures, our own strengths and weaknesses, our own personal lives, our own likes and dislikes.

It’s about recognizing that none of us are different in that we are ALL different.

And, in turn, it’s about harnessing the unique strengths, expertise, and perspectives we individually bring to the table—and reaping the innovation that comes from such a rich diversity of contributors.

Equity requires everyone to provide a helping hand

At PMI, we aspire to bring more gender diversity to our organization. In 2022, we achieved our aim of having 40 percent of managerial positions held by women. We have since set a new aspiration for at least 35 percent of senior roles to be occupied by women by 2025.

This is the equality we’re striving for—but such incremental wins will be hard to sustain in the long-term without a bedrock of equity to build upon.

It’s important to make a clear distinction between equality and equity—words with contrasting, albeit complementary, definitions.

Equality essentially means providing everyone with the same opportunities and access; equity levels the playing field by taking into account—and servicing—individuals’ varying needs and circumstances.

Whilst quantifiable aspirations allow us to measure our progress and ensure we are moving in the right direction, what matters most are the behaviors and actions each of us display to support and empower women, showcase their value, and help turn the mud many are still wading through into a smoother path toward career progression.

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Voices of Inspiration

Voices of Inspiration aims to recognize, celebrate, and elevate the women of Philip Morris International (PMI), along with their male allies.
Read more

Better balance for a better future

The UN’s theme for this year’s International Women’s Day—“Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress”—very much echoes PMI’s call to action.

Whilst a 24-hour event certainly helps to drive awareness on a global scale, it’s ultimately an effort that requires commitment 365 days per year, for as many years as it takes.

Only then will PMI establish the equity paramount to unlocking the potential of every employee and, in doing so, unleashing the full breadth of innovation central to my company achieving its vision of a smoke-free future—one in which cigarettes no longer exist.

Championing our “Voices of Inspiration”

Keeping the imperative need to help women soar at the forefront of our employees’ minds, we’re leveraging International Women’s Day to kick off our “Voices of Inspiration” campaign throughout 2024.

It’s an initiative designed to showcase employees of all pay grades—predominantly women but also male allies—who have been nominated by their peers for standing out as key enablers of female progression at PMI.

My hope is that by giving this topic increased visibility and recognition, it will spark an ongoing conversation about the critical role of diversity, equity, and inclusion as a key catalyst for our company’s growth, innovation, and future success—with the aim of generating greater and better opportunities for our female employees, both current and prospective.

That’s why we’re asking the women of PMI to select colleagues who have given them the courage to challenge the status quo, who have role-modelled the values expected of an employee by exhibiting caring and inclusive behaviors, or who have opened doors to growth opportunities for them and others.

Delivering change is a responsibility that belongs to us all

Too often, people consider a Chief Diversity Officer to be the person single-handedly responsible for championing the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion—and striving to put it at the heart of an organization.

As convenient an expectation as that may be, it’s also a wildly unrealistic one. Such a seismic shift in culture can’t be achieved by one person alone; it’s a responsibility that belongs to everyone.

So, let’s step up to the challenge and make change happen. Together, we will succeed.

And my advice to all women at PMI and beyond is: Recognize and embody the strengths you have, stay open to learning, invest and have belief in yourself, and unabatedly go out and grab your goals—for yourself and for society at large.

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