On diversity and gender equality, OCP’s driving philosophy is to train or accompany women leaders in understanding and transcending existing societal obstacles to female accomplishment.
Rabat – Rim Bennani, the Head of Financial Strategy and Investor Relations at OCP Group, has said the “Moroccan and African” phosphate giant is a working model of social inclusion and gender equality.
Bennani made her assessment earlier today during a virtual conference on female leadership and women empowerment in the Arab world. Organized by the Paris-based Arab World Institute, the event brought together women leaders from a wide range of professional backgrounds to discuss the current state of gender equality in the MENA region and beyond.
In her keynote session, titled, “Inclusion and diversity, an engine of transformation for OCP Group,” Bennani spoke at length about OCP’s past and ongoing projects to foster gender equality and other goals in the diversity basket.
Belief and commitment
The OCP Group, she argued, has in the past few years devised a new, flexible, and cooperative-based model of corporate action to promote socially committed innovation. “The aim was to make diversity a vector for growth and a pillar of the Group’s strategic ambition,” she said. “Niya,” an Arabic term denoting goodwill, good faith, or genuine willingness, is a key component in OCP’s social responsibility platform.
“Our inclusion policy is based on 3 pillars: Belief and Commitment, Ambition and Realism and Training,” Bennani said with conviction when asked whether OCP Group could be considered a model of success when it comes to diversity. “OCP Group is a good example of what the corporate world can bring to society to influence mentalities and bring about changes in the legal framework. I think we can serve as a model.”
Among the many “diversity and social inclusion” projects the OCP Group has either initiated or accompanied in recent years, Bennani cited the provision of financial and technical support to start-ups, female empowerment associations, and socially committed scientific research in Morocco, Guinea, and Senegal.
With most of these undertakings, she explained, the primary goal has been to train and accompany female leaders in their endeavors to improve their own personal and professional lives and make a difference for society at large.
In more concrete terms, Bennani elaborated, the OCP Group founded its “Le Mouvement” initiative in 2016 to translate its convictions into intangible results. Since then, the company’s achievements on the diversity and inclusiveness front have been stark. The rate of female senior employees and department chiefs has jumped from 23 % in 2013 to 34 % currently, while the rate of young, under 30s in senior positions has increased from 30 to 50 % in the same period.
While a significant part of OCP Group’s social outreach success is associated with the notable rise of a new generation of female engineers in Morocco, the company has voluntarily devised a number of recruitment and professional mentorship schemes to make the most of Morocco’s emerging cohort of well-educated and tech savvy young women .
Bennani described OCP’s recruitment model as a “voluntary recruitment policy based on openness initiatives and massive investments in education and training.” With its enormous investments in gender equality and its reputation as Morocco’s leading corporation in terms of social commitment, she suggested, OCP Group and its women empowerment and inclusion programs are slowly but decisively changing Morocco’s corporate ecosystem for the better.
The long road ahead
Taking her own example as a mother of two and a passionate professional who has made it in a predominantly male industry, Bennani argued that stories like hers – which are becoming more common across Morocco and Africa – are encouraging starting points suggesting that the ultimate dream – ditching socially entrenched prejudices about women and female leaders – is attainable.
But even more heartening is the existence of companies like OCP Group whose own self-imposed culture of equality and genuine inclusion is gradually paving the way.
Bennani tempered her optimism and enthusiasm towards the end of the keynote session. Even as she recounted with delight the remarkable progress OCP – and Morocco, to a larger extent – has made in terms of female participation and visibility, she appeared to concede that there is still a long road ahead.
Here, she spoke like somebody who, having been to the mountaintop, is acutely aware of what it takes to get more people up there. For all of OCP inclusion-themed training and workshops; for all its “collaborative” working environment and massive investments in gender equality and female empowerment, one lingering challenge has remained — the slow pace at which perception changes.
One enduring issue, Bennani stressed, is the still “very low presence of women at OCP’s industrial sites, where the job is socially perceived as principally masculine.”
“Women should not be expected to be different as leaders,” she said when asked about the persistent stereotypes and sweeping generalizations women in senior positions often encounter from those eager to either downplay female participation, or cavalierly dismiss qualified women by constraining them to positions believed to be inherently suitable for a female touch.
Faced with the herculean task of changing mentalities, she added, OCP has put its bet on training and awareness-raising campaigns. The driving philosophy, she explained, is to “continue training and investing in women leaders to both understand and change existing obstacles.”