Cummins Africa Middle East (AME) emerged a major winner at the Gender Mainstreaming Awards at the Ticketpro Dome in Northgate, Johannesburg on Thursday 13 September. The awards are an initiative of the Business Engage Association NPC, sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The awards aim to encourage private sector buy-in to achieve more meaningful representation of women in mainstream business.
Entrants had to comply with the criteria of a 44-page document entitled ‘Best Practices in Gender Mainstreaming in the Private Sector’, the end result of two years’ research into international trends, based on more than 200 global academic papers, commercial reports, blogs, and general articles, and combined with local knowledge and practice.
In total, Cummins AME entered six categories, was short-listed as a finalist in five, and ultimately won three at the gala awards evening, where it competed against the likes of major Blue Chip companies such as Vodacom, ABSA, Barloworld, PPC, Thomson Reuters, Standard Chartered, AngloGold Ashanti, and De Beers. Cummins AME was a runner-up in the ‘Investing in Young Women’ and ‘Empowerment of Women in the Community’ categories.
For its win in the ‘Equal Representation & Participation’ category, the judges cited the following Cummins AME initiatives: Its 2021 gender aspirational goals, a project to increase the representation of women in science and engineering, its Business AcuWomen development programme to enhance business acumen needed to transition into commercial-type roles, and its ‘Lean in’ Conversation Starters to equip women with skills to overcome limiting beliefs and other barriers.
For its win in the ‘Mainstreaming Gender and Disability’ category, the judges cited the Cheese Factory Project in Abu Dhabi. This provides work for disabled women in a society where disability and gender constitute a double barrier. “We enhanced the physical environment, and provided education to increase production efficiency, thereby enabling a sustainable source of income for women who would otherwise be unemployed,” Lamona Rajah, Diversity & Inclusion Leader at Cummins AME, explains.
Gino Butera, who assumed the role of Vice President, Power Generation at Cummins Inc. effective 1 September, won the ‘Inclusive Leader Award’, bestowed upon leaders who live out the value of inclusion in all they do, and who are completely vested in the empowerment of women throughout the organisations they represent, irrespective of role or rank.
Rajah explains that Cummins AME launched a Gender Diversity Strategy in September 2017. “While we had significant strides in gender diversity over the past few years, we recognised the need for an integrated strategy that recognised the factors impacting heavy industry in particular, as well as taking into account the broader socio-economic, political, and cultural environment.”
Over the past several years, Cummins AME has increased gender equality through strategic hiring and development initiatives in order to create a diverse and working environment. For example, in traditional male roles such as mechanics or technicians, it has launched initiatives to identify and train females. This even extended to modifying facilities to ensure separate changing rooms and bathrooms for men and women.
An apprenticeship programme has targeted talented women to engage in a three-year journey to become certified technicians through a mixture of classroom and on-the-job training. “Additionally, our graduate hiring consistently attracts strong talent pools, where more than 70% of the group are females launching their careers in all areas of the business,” Rajah elaborates.
Cummins AME takes a holistic approach to empowering women, both professionally and personally. “Our initiatives range from development programmes to help women advance their careers, to engagement sessions speaking about practice challenges they face, and addressing these. We provide a platform for us to equip women with the skills and tactics to achieve their personal aspirations and thrive in the workplace.”
Aspirational gender goals across all career levels has seen gender diversity increase at all levels in the company, with 33% women on the executive leadership team. The Women’s Employee Resource Group is a forum for connecting women in the workplace.
Cummins AME’s involvement extends to women in its communities, starting with the girl child. “We take care of basic needs like access to schooling, proper classrooms, bathrooms, running water, flush toilets, food gardens, and education about hygiene, from handwashing to managing waste in the school and at home.
“We also provide sanitary wear for girls to keep them in school and increase their chances for employment post-school. Sexual reproduction and personal body-changes conversations are expanded to include parents and school teachers,” Rajah elaborates. The ‘Red My Lips’ campaign was launched in November 2017 to highlight myths around sexual violence against women.
Supporting underprivileged women to educate themselves and achieve economic independence has a society-wide impact on the number of childhood marriages, teenage pregnancies, and school dropout rates. Cummins AME’s extensive intervention has resulted in about 4 200 girls remaining in school, boosting the pass rate from 30% to 70%.
Rajah concludes: “Diversity and inclusion is a core value, where we recognise and value differences, and leverage them to deliver superior results. Gender diversity is an integral part of Cummins AME’s overall Diversity and Inclusion Strategy.”