Delivering female leaders
Last year UPS launched its Women’s Leadership Development (WLD) programme in Hong Kong, of which I am chair. Women account for around 40 per cent of our Hong Kong workforce. The basic purpose of the WLD is to help employees add value to their career and other areas of their lives by providing personal and professional connections both in the logistics sector and in the wider community.
With more women taking on leadership positions in Hong Kong, we felt it was an opportune time to introduce the programme in the local market and provide extra support for female colleagues.
Background and objectives
The scheme began in the US in 2006 to nurture women leaders and give them new opportunities for all-round development. The initial goal was to help participants learn from experts in their field, meet and network with successful business leaders, and share their experiences.
We hope to improve the retention rate of women supervisors and managers, create a talent pool that allows for better succession planning, and have more individuals ready to take on senior leadership roles.
We already have more than 100 Hong Kong-based members, led by an 11-strong committee drawn from various departments. The WLD footprint now extends to Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and, most recently, mainland China. In principle, meetings and training sessions are open to both male and female participants, as we believe employees are the key to continued success.
The programme is all about building connections. There are interlinked elements built around internal networking and membership of external business groups and community organisations. In-house sessions might focus on work-life issues or steps for career enhancement, and encourage open dialogue, support and informal mentoring.
Connections in the business world and the wider community help to expand knowledge and build valuable relationships. Involvement and volunteering also provide lessons in communication and leadership. We saw this recently when our WLD members spent an afternoon with Mother’s Choice. They were able to spread some positive energy by talking to single girls facing crisis pregnancies and challenging life situations.
The logistics industry has traditionally been male-dominated, but UPS is committed to assisting all employees grow professionally and make the most of their abilities in various aspects of their lives. The WLD programme is just one of many HR-related initiatives designed to nurture talent and develop potential. Long-standing company policies support concepts such as equal opportunities and promotion from within.
In this way, all employees have the chance to set and achieve career goals and know that dedication and good performance will lead to advancement. This has made UPS a preferred employer.
There are already many opportunities for women to build a career in the company, and many women hold leadership positions in Hong Kong. In fact, at management level, the balance is quite even, with a gender ratio close to 50-50. However, the WLD programme plays an important part in sharing information, highlighting career options and giving up-and-coming female employees the support, encouragement and contacts they may be looking for.
Of course, it also ties in with other aspects of training and development designed to give breadth and perspective. These include job rotations to understand how different departments operate, specific courses to support individual career-development plans, and an open-door policy so that any concerns can be taken directly to a supervisor or manager.
The WLD programme had a busy but fruitful first year. We invited the Women’s Foundation of Hong Kong to our official launch and subsequently heard from senior female executives about the challenges of leadership in the health-care industry and how one can be the architect of their own career.
We balance workshops like this with smaller-scale events where people can interact easily to find advice and make new contacts.
As told to John Cremer