In conjunction with Women History’s Month, we speak to Victoria Ang, the People Director of Heineken Malaysia.
While the percentage of women represented in senior management at Heineken today has doubled from a decade ago, there’s still room for more growth. In terms of representation, 43% of Heineken Malaysia’s Board of Directors are women. In addition, Heineken Malaysia ranked number two out of 312 Bursa listed companies in the Board Diversity Index 2021 and has a 50:50 male to female ratio in the middle to senior management positions. The company is committed to supporting women to develop careers, particularly in areas where women are under-represented.
With over 20 years of experience, Victoria knows more than a thing or two when it comes to fostering employee engagement through human resource practices. In this interview, she delves deep into how unconscious biases are not exclusively attached to one gender, Heineken’s efforts for gender equality, as well as how the industry can be more supportive of women in the workplace.
The theme this year is #BreaktheBias. What has your own experience been? What support have you had and what challenges have you faced?
I must say I’ve been quite blessed. In the sense that I did have a lot of support from both genders over the years. In terms of one’s career, I’d say that you need a lot of allies in this journey to grow and to develop yourself, because nobody is perfect. I think trust and respect are important factors when you’re talking about making a difference.
In my own experience, I had a female leader who was not confident in my ability to perform. That presented a tremendous challenge, as I spent more time being lectured than getting work done. And I was already a senior at that point in time. I believe that biases exist everywhere, and it’s not exclusively attached to one gender. It’s important that we’re aware of people’s capabilities and be open to what they can bring to the table.
How does Heineken support the development of female employees?
When I look back at what we’ve done at Heineken, it’s about promoting these gender issues and finding a way to navigate them. By bringing men and women together, we’re able to have a conversation about what are the obstacles that are preventing an inclusive environment from taking place.
We make sure that women have the opportunity to be considered when it comes to promotions. When it comes to the selection process, it’s important to us that we offer equal opportunity to both genders. For instance, there’s a stigma around women not being able to perform as sales personnel in the industry. But why is that? Instead of averting the question, we want to have a discussion about it. Today, we do have a larger population of male employees in comparison to female employees, but that’s something that we’re hoping to change. For us, it’s important to acknowledge that it’s possible for women to do the same job as men, and that there’s room for equality for both genders.
Why does Heineken believe it’s important to take these steps?
It’s not a one gender game, right? We need both genders to be successful, and I think that kind of thought process translates into business success. At Heineken, we have 50:50 male to female ratio in the middle to senior management positions, and that’s something we’re really proud of. It’s not about hunting people down, but rather it’s about getting the best person for the job. At the end of the day, we need capable people with the right experience to steer the company.
What can other businesses do to encourage women to be more empowered in rising the ranks?
The respect for another human being is incredibly important. It’s my belief that the respect that we have for people is the core of the movements that we’ve initiated. Because when you recognise that everybody is equal, then they’d be able to contribute to the organisation without restraints. Is it possible for women to be managing directors? Yes, it is. If we recognise that both genders are equal, then they’d have the means to contribute, and taking that step has the power to change perceptions. So, I think it’s a continuous journey because we are people, and people are complex in nature. It’s about embarking on a journey that’s constantly evolving.