Empowerment and progress; the journey to gender equality in Hikma’s leadership
8 March 2022
By Majda Labadi, EVP Organizational Development
We all know that we have not yet achieved a gender equal world without bias, stereotypes or discrimination, including in the workplace. Whilst women hold almost half of all jobs available worldwide, equal representation at the top is a long way off.
On today’s International Women’s Day, I wanted to draw on my 37-year career at Hikma as a woman in business and take the time to shine a light on progress in the industry and what still needs to be done.
Hikma’s commitment to gender equality
When I joined Hikma in 1985, it was a very different world to the one we are living in today. As a woman growing up in the MENA region, I was no stranger to the obstacles of gender inequality – but my experience with Hikma was very different. Mr. Samih Darwazah, Hikma’s late founder, believed employees were, and are, the company’s greatest asset – and in line with this, in the importance of equality in leadership roles. His focus was on a person’s potential, skill, and passion, rather than their gender. He also saw equality in leadership roles as key to a healthy sense of belonging and inclusivity across the company.
This belief became the foundation of Hikma’s commitment to supporting women. At the start of my career, Mr. Samih Darwazah personally mentored and coached me, along with others, which in turn fueled our ambition and belief in our potential to pursue any role we set our minds to.
I spent the early years of my career at Hikma in various roles ranging from IT data entry to procurement to operations. In fact, I was Hikma’s first female manufacturing plant manager in Jordan. And because I really enjoyed this role, when we expanded our operations to Europe for the first time, I approached Mr. Samih Darwazah volunteering to go run our new operations in Portugal when the General Manager resigned. He was reluctant to agree at first because I had never taken an international assignment. I insisted I could rise to the challenge and he agreed to send me to Portugal for 6 months, until we found a suitable full-time candidate.
I ended up staying in Portugal eight years, first as the General Manager of our Portuguese operations and then I was promoted to become the VP of Hikma’s Injectables business. It was a role I look back on as the highlight of my career, due to the great relationships I forged with my colleagues of both genders who supported Hikma’s successful growth journey. Since then, it’s been a pleasure to see the numerous remarkable women who’ve achieved leadership positions in manufacturing across Hikma’s locations worldwide.
The progress we’ve made
At Hikma, we recognize achieving a more gender-diverse leadership team is a continuous journey. Today, 31 % of the various leadership positions at Hikma are held by women, and whilst this figure is a significant progression on where we’ve been in the past, we still have a long way to go.
The barriers to leadership for women, whether they are institutional barriers or individual mindsets related to lifestyle choices, need to be broken down to achieve faster progress towards a gender-diverse workforce across the board.
The road ahead
In celebration of International Women’s Day this year, we are excited to announce a new Employee Resource Group for Hikma women with the aim of establishing a united voice for women in the workplace.
We established the Hikma Women’s Network (HWN) to provide a dedicated space for Hikma women to address workplace and career-related challenges and agree strategies for overcoming them. We believe the HWN will not only improve the morale and engagement of women at Hikma but will also serve as an important resource to identify potential leaders. This will help to drive a higher representative share of women in senior management roles. Having this support network will also demonstrate to Hikma women that there are future opportunities available to them and build a more inclusive work environment.
Our actions today impact the world we will live in tomorrow. It’s our collective responsibility to build a gender-diverse workforce, for a better future.