Women empowerment in the workplace: the example of CEMEX making it happen

Photo: CEMEX Egypt

Challenging and changing the gender discourse requires commitment on the individual and leadership level in all contexts, including in the context of the workplace. Gender-related labor indicators such as the limited female workforce participation rate on the national level reflect the gap. Beyond the figures, working women may face bias and unequal career opportunities because of perceived gender stereotypes. Business Forward speaks to Nancy El Baroudy ’04, Public Affairs and CSR Manager at CEMEX, who shares the company’s experience in tackling gender bias and empowering women in a typically ‘heavy industry’.

How much gender diversity do you see at CEMEX?

At CEMEX, we value diversity and believe that its benefit extends outside the office and to the society, fostering both economic and social welfare. We have female professionals in all departments, adding value and contributing to the growth of this company. They are assuming leading and vital roles, sitting on the board, and leading functions. Moreover, CEMEX affirmed its commitment to gender equality by becoming a signatory to the Women Empowerment Principles (WEPs) developed by UN Women and UN Global Compact. We do not stop at this. We are constantly developing our plans to assume more diversity in our company and enrichen our workforce with female talents.

What does CEMEX do to attract more women employees and retain them?

As an equal opportunity employer, we translate equality to policies of hiring, remuneration, promotions, performance appraisal, recognition, training and development, and others.

Furthermore, because embracing diversity is a critical leadership skill for every employee in today’s evolving world, we as a company understand the cultural and psychological barriers that can interfere with diversity, and we safeguard our work environment from them through a training program that aims at familiarizing our employees with the “unconscious bias.

What are some important factors that make the workplace a comfortable and safe place for women?

We work hard to provide a safe environment by encouraging and availing channels for reporting of any professional or behavioral misconduct.

Our respect to diversity reflects on daily interactions and is encouraged across the hierarchy. We also understand that most women play multiple roles on each given workday. For that we have tailored flexible working plans to help women perform at their best in their different roles. Understanding this context, we have an internal policy that allows mothers of kids below 12 years old to leave one hour early every day.

What is the corporate and leadership culture like with regards to this?

We are fully committed to diversity. We apply a 1:1 female to male ratio of candidates for every position we fill, and we monitor the numbers of female hires. In the last 2 years, two females made their way to Egypt management team and were recently recognized among the top 30 influential women in the cement sector in Africa.

We aim at increasing the percentage of women’s presence in management and executive positions all the way up to board membership. Last month, we welcomed to CEMEX the first female salesperson in this industry in the Egyptian market and one among few in the Middle East, and we celebrated her against all stereotypes in the industry.

CEMEX tracks the career development of women and encourages their progression. We also invite female university students to internship programs and assign them to different departments and we observe them for hiring possibilities upon graduation.

Are there any male-dominated departments or operations within CEMEX? Why is that the case? And are there any initiatives being taken to tackle this?

As a heavy industry, there is a perception that females have limited presence in some jobs. However, in Egypt, we succeeded to break this stereotype and change the status quo. We have females in Operations, Health and Safety, Cement Sales and Sustainability. We remain in pursuit of our targets for female presence in all departments, locations and operations.  We are even looking forward to hiring female technicians with the right competencies in our operations.

What role do male colleagues and male managers have to play to make a workplace more gender diverse? 

We are lucky in Egypt to have a very determined directive in this domain. Our CEO, Carlos Gonzalez is a firm believer in diversity and values immensely the input presented by females across the organization. He fosters an ecosystem that empowers women and values their input to make the picture complete. This vision is cascaded down and reflects on the day to day life of women at CEMEX.

Finally, we believe that changing paradigm cannot be done by scattered changes, it requires the whole business context to work towards the goal. At CEMEX, we are happy to be one of the leading companies in our sector to emphasize on a diverse workplace. We are also very happy to see other companies taking steady steps towards diversity and women empowerment and we are open to share our practices and join forces to magnify the value.


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