Coca-Cola Pakistan held a panel session on March 8, in light of International Women’s Day. The panel comprised of Sadaf Zarrar, Head of Integrated Marketing Communications for Coca-Cola Pakistan & Afghanistan, Seemi Raheel, a veteran to Pakistani drama and theater industry who is also a motivational speaker by profession, and Omair Rana who also wears several hats; an actor, teacher, director and producer for some of the leading plays in Pakistan. The panel was moderated by Asmara Nomani, Region Director HR Coca-Cola Pakistan & Afghanistan, and the attendees included male and female associates of Coca-Cola PAR.

The session was opened by Rizwan Khan, General Manager Coca-Cola Pakistan and Afghanistan where he highlighted the importance of diversity and inclusion within the Coca-Cola System, that also inculcates the same values to its stakeholders and consumers. Rizwan commented, “Women hold half the sky, and they deserve equal rights in everything. We as a System are proud to believe in the diversity of talent and not just gender. Men and women deserve to be treated equally at all levels where the merit of talent remains the same for both. In the words of Melinda Gates, ‘A woman with a voice is a strong woman by definition’, and that’s the very reason we have female associates working at our bottler production plants as truck drivers, forklift drivers and security managers – roles that were previous just assigned to male staff. The secret of our Company’s success lies within our people – our people that are empowered as teams and individuals within a healthy culture.” 

Coca-Cola PAR HR Director Asmara Nomani heading the panel with guests Omair Rana, Sadaf Zarrar and Seemi Raheel

After setting the context for the day #BalanceForBetter, the session moved into panel discussion which was led by Asmara Nomani. We set the tone for Diversity and Inclusion regarding “Gender Equity” instead of Gender Equality. In that perspective Asmara emphasised the notion of equal human rights, “however it’s about creating a conducive environment and organizational culture, partaking and supporting each other’s individual perspectives, to pave way a way of equal rights and opportunities for all.”

The panel session was divided into three parts with an open discussion over topics like the role of women in our everyday life, the challenges faced by women socially and professionally, and the importance of inculcating gender-neutral values within the next generation, while not forgetting chivalry and basic mannerisms. Guest, Seemi Raheel shared examples from her own experiences as a working mother and grandmother while her husband has also been a full time working father. She shed light on the importance of bringing up sons like daughters and vice versa with a more gender-neutral environment where family responsibilities and love should encompass everything.

Sadaf Zarrar lit up the room with her candour regarding the at-work experiences during her first pregnancy, but she stressed over the importance of not allowing your family become a part of your life’s baggage, instead family should be the support system of every individual at work and beyond. She also highlighted that on Women’s Day we shouldn’t forget to appreciate the men in our lives who have helped to create stronger and confident women leaders in our society today. Omair Rana steered the panel discussion towards the international context, highlighting examples from Iceland and Western Europe where women workers contribute a major portion towards the GDP of their respective countries.

Female employment rate in Pakistan still remains at 25% as compared to European countries with 70%, but there is still a massive improvement and potential within the Asian Pacific region of the world. Globally women produce 80% of the world’s food but they earn just 10% of the total income. The levels of disparity around economic independence of men and women are quite high but from a brighter perspective, that’s where the opportunity lies.

To make this a global agenda, Coca-Cola rolled out its 5by20 program in 2010 where the target is to economically empower 5 million women by 2020. So far, the Company has empowered almost 2.4 million women across 75 countries. Coca-Cola Pakistan has contributed to this goal by empowering over 9,000 women through microfinance support and vocational training in partnership with Kashf Foundation since 2010.