• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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IWD: How we are nurturing female talents for sustainable growth – APM Terminals

IWD: How we are nurturing female talents for sustainable growth – APM Terminals

Every year, International Women’s Day celebrations often focus on the dwindling numbers of women in the C-suite and middle-level management, and the glass ceiling aspiring female leaders must break to take their careers to the next level.

In reality, women must compete in the corporate space against their male counterparts, facing the challenge of balancing home responsibilities and personal ambitions.

These challenges further highlight the importance of a level playing field that provides the necessary support that will enable women to succeed in their careers and on the home front.

Caroline Aubert-Adewuyi, chief commercial officer of APM Terminals Nigeria, advises that women must first address the concept of a glass ceiling.

She said the more women focused on a glass ceiling; the less time they spent on things that could help them progress in their careers.

Admitting that the container handling business was indeed male-dominated, she said having more male workforce in the terminal should not be a concern for ladies.

“It should be a strength; we should be asking how we can make the best of the situation without thinking that men can progress their careers faster than women because there is no such thing at APM Terminals.

“Career women have real issues like work-life balance, how to navigate career progression, how to behave professionally, and how to network. It is for these reasons that we have a mentoring programme in APM Terminals Nigeria for women. By having these discussions with a mentor and openly sharing perspectives, this programme can help women grow in their careers and get ready for what is coming their way. It is based on conversations between a mentor and mentee to open perspectives.

“By having the right conversations with a mentor, the women will stop thinking in terms of glass ceilings, limitations, and gender equity and will understand they are following their path. What is best for them can only be decided by the women themselves and they can be guided accordingly,” Caroline says.

While APM Terminals Apapa recently kicked off its mentoring programme for women, at the West Africa Container Terminal Onne, it is about to enter its second session having launched the pilot session last year.

“At inception, WACT was mostly a male-only terminal. However, in its over 20 years of operations, there had been a significant shift that announced female representation in the workforce. With the active participation of the ladies, it was time to focus on empowering our women to grow and contribute,” Chinelo Obienyem, senior people business partner at WACT, said.

She said the mentoring programme started in 2023 to accelerate the gender balance, and diversity goals and to connect the ladies to other senior female leaders in the A.P. Moller Maersk Group to gain and share experiences.

She added that the programme provided the WACT female workforce with better clarity on their career progression, enabling greater participation in the terminal’s transformation journey.

“It was a great experience for our ladies whose leadership skills have improved as we have seen them navigate challenges with a high level of confidence and interact with different spheres of leadership.

“We are also working on approval for our female operators to work the night shift, which is part of creating an enabling and inclusive environment for our ladies. We are committed to empowering our ladies to break down barriers which may hinder their career, in line with our core value – ‘our employees,” Obienyem said.

In 2019, APM Terminals Apapa obtained a permit to enable the hiring of women to work the night shift in the terminal. A provision in Nigeria’s Labour Act prohibits night work for women in an industrial setting.

At APM Terminals, other positive initiatives besides mentoring, are being adopted to encourage growth and a sense of belonging for its female employees.

Pointing diversity, equity, and inclusion as a core part of the organisation’s integrator logistics vision, mission, and corporate culture, Omolara Olatunbosun, senior people business partner at APM Terminals Apapa, said the organisation provides leadership development programmes for women, creates mentorship opportunities while ensuring equal pay and advancement opportunities for all employees regardless of gender.

Since 2020 till date, APM Terminals Apapa has seen a 250 percent rise in women in leadership.

She said women-only programmes enable the organisation to target female talent and provide the skills, tools, and techniques to help maximise the potential of an underrepresented talent pool.

“The AP Moller Maersk Group, of which we are a part, has implemented various initiatives to promote inclusion for women in the workplace. This includes setting diversity and inclusion goals and the DEI Policy. These policies have helped create a supportive and inclusive environment where women feel empowered to pursue leadership positions and thrive in their careers,” Omolara said.

Programmes such as unconscious bias training for employees, employee resource groups for women, and leadership development initiatives specifically targeted at women, aim to increase women’s representation in leadership roles.
She listed some of these positive initiatives including the WIL program – Women in Leadership which develops women to take their careers to the next level, and the S4S – Strategies for Success program which was rolled out globally in 2012 with workshops in Singapore, Mumbai, Copenhagen, and Panama.

Omolara added that it had recently expanded its team of mechanics to include skilled and talented women in the field.

The feat was achieved through the terminal’s partnership with Lady Mechanic Initiative, an indigenous NGO established to empower females with mechanical and technical skills.

“Our new female mechanics will be responsible for maintaining terminal trucks and heavy equipment. They will also learn the new terminal automation systems, hydraulic systems, and power generation.

“They bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to our organisation, and we are confident that their contributions will have a positive impact on our business,” she said.

For Omolara, this year’s International Women’s Day serves as a reminder of the ongoing need to inspire inclusion and create a truly equitable and supportive environment where all employees, especially aspiring female leaders, can contribute their talents to the organisation’s success.

Steen Knudsen, APM Terminals Apapa, terminal manager, said winning in today’s market was dependent on the diversity of gender, background, nationality, culture, and education.

“These are all enablers for our decision-making processes and competitive advantage. While we have made some progress in the middle and senior management on this, we need much more diversity in our frontline business – the place where we are turning strategy into customer experiences and outcomes. Many of our current managers and leaders have grown up through frontline roles, so it is key for our success that we focus on this.

“It requires the organisation to ensure we have the right facilities for a diverse workforce, which we are currently investing in both WACT and Apapa. It also requires us to move away from a traditional way of looking at shift rosters and apply more flexibility to ensure we can offer our employees a good way to manage their lives both at work as well as privately with their families,” he said.

Frederik Klinke, country managing director of APM Terminals Nigeria, said while the organisation had come to ensure more equal representation at the management and office level for women, it is still far from there when it comes to the front-line staff.

He described adequate facilities as the only minimum requirement to promote the inclusion of more female operators and technicians in the industry.

“We need to also adapt how we organise work to be a more attractive place for women, so that ports and terminals may become as a normal occupation for women as working in a supermarket or nursery. At the country leadership level, we have made significant progress as the Country Leadership Team has over 40 percent female representation.

“IWD is an opportunity for us all at APM Terminals Nigeria to reflect on how we individually can make our workplace more accommodating for women. This is how we as part of Maersk, very concretely improve life for all; for our colleagues and society around us,” he said.