Promoting diversity: how should the professional development of women be encouraged? Flexible hours and mentoring make up part of the menu.

Author:Torrado, Santiago

Creating a positive labor environment for women that enables them to cultivate and retain their special talents contributes to success in business. With this idea in mind, some companies have designed programs aimed at encouraging their professional development.

Among General Electric's incentives, for example, is what the company calls "affinity groups," which include the Women's Network, which helps women enhance their leadership abilities and opportunities for promotion.

As an affinity group led by GE's own employees, it has an assigned budget and organizes a variety of activities aimed at encouraging the development and business talents of women, as well as helping them balance work and life, explains Ayda Alvis, human resources manager at GE Colombia.

Last year, they did a three-day workshop focused on recognizing and strengthening leadership among women. They also had a mentoring program that lasted for one year, in which they connected interested participants with several company leaders. "They are varied incentives. Some are directed toward development and others are simply get-togethers where women can network among themselves, with people they know and who can help them," Alvis said.

Pfizer is another example. The firm created the Diversity and Inclusion committee with the mission of supporting strategies to create an inclusive work atmosphere, and where each country sets up its own activities.

Among its objectives were to pass from "unconscious exclusion" to "conscious inclusion." The main achievements are easy to see, since in the working team at Pfizer Colombia women are in the majority.

"What we have strengthened is that the number of men and women in the organization should be about even, since a number of studies have shown that a higher level of income for women could reactivate the economy, and above all, result in more schooling," said Rodrigo Puga, general manager of Pfizer Colombia. "The fact of having more women in an organization, including at the board level, improves perspective and the level of opportunities."

Among its programs is a tele-work policy that enables employees to work from home one day per week, and another one of flextime so people can manage their own hours for coming and going at their convenience, as well as having...

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