Over the last few years, International Women’s Day has transcribed itself as a way to acknowledge and celebrate women around the world, from all walks of life who have contributed towards sustainable development, respect for human rights, peace and law enforcement. 

On 8th March Coca-Cola Pakistan, yet again, celebrated International Women’s Day to commemorate women worldwide and the female associates of the Coca-Cola value chain. On this occasion a roundtable discussion was held with the guest of honour; Roshaneh Zafar, Managing Director of KASHF Foundation, which focused on women empowerment and leadership. The discussion session also reflected upon the global drive 5by20 of The Coca-Cola Company, to empower 5 million females globally by 2020. 

KASHF Foundation is Pakistan’s premier wealth management company for low income households. Prior to starting Kashf, Ms. Zafar worked with the World Bank in Islamabad in the Water and Sanitation department for several years. Ms. Zafar was one of the first Ashoka Fellows in Pakistan and in 2005 was awarded the Tamghai Imtiaz, one of Pakistan’s highest civilian awards, by the President of Pakistan for her work in the field of development and women’s empowerment. 

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The roundtable discussion was a great success pertaining to its lesser formal environment, where the idea was to make female associates of the company feel comfortable in sharing and discussing any issues regarding gender roles and disparities in Pakistan’s corporate sector. The session started by showing a video message by Michelle Michelle Guswiler, Vice President CPS Global Operation, regarding her journey as a professional and the relevance of women in The Company. Later in her discussion session, Ms. Zafar highlighted “Corporate organisations with more than 35% of female workforce, are 20% more likely to earn profits. So every woman in this room is contributing towards 20% higher profits of The Company”. 

Pakistan still remains a nation with female participation rate of just 17% in workforce, however there has been improvement in overall literacy rate of female population of Pakistan. The alarming fact remains that even though the female graduates of HEC (Higher Education Commission) in Pakistan are 52% of the annual batch, the female participation rate in corporate sector doesn’t translate the same way. Ms. Zafar reflected on this by opening the discussion for the female associates of The Company to share their views on the former statement. The discussion further allowed the female participants to shed light upon domestic issues residing in Pakistan’s culture and how most of the females have compromised their professional aspirations. 

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The session concluded with a synopsis of the role of women in society and that we need to teach the future generations about gender equality, as indeed, women hold half the sky and without them the sky would fall. The idea isn’t to treat women in a special way, instead the notion is to treat women as equals to men, without any stereotyping. Women make insightful leaders, as they have the capacity to think through with a holistic view of any situation, yet the number of female corporate leaders worldwide remains extremely low. Empowerment of women starts at the basic core level of management where decision making can be delegated, and The Coca-Cola Company maintains the same stance for women across its value chain. 

Also, Happy Women’s Day from The Coca-Cola Company!