Strength in diversity: How BAT fosters inclusion among 141 nationalities, narrows the gender pay gap, and more  heart

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"Companies can only harness the benefits of a diverse workforce if they create an inclusive culture where employees feel they are valued regardless of their gender, ethnicity, culture, or sexuality," Hae In Kim, Director, Talent and Culture, BAT, points out.

In November 2021, BAT became the first tobacco company to receive two industry-leading benchmarks – the UK National Equality Standard and the Global Equality Standard for Diversity and Inclusion (D&I). Among the key strengths which secured this certification during the assessment process was the company's dedicated D&I strategy launched in September 2020, Hae In Kim, Director, Talent and Culture, BAT, tells Priya Sunil.

"As part of this strategy, we announced ambitions that by 2025, we aim to increase the number of women in senior teams to 40% and women in management roles to 45%; achieve a 50% spread of nationalities within regional and functional leadership teams, and double the number of cross-industry hires in senior teams."

Also noted were BAT's "clear focus" on mental health and wellbeing, the development of D&I capabilities among middle management, and having in place functional champions and leads who drive D&I across the business.

"This recognition acknowledged the diversity of our people, their thinking and skillsets, our diversity policies and practices, as well as our inclusive culture," Kim adds. "These all serve to make us an employer of choice and support our ESG ambitions as we build A Better Tomorrow™ by reducing the health impact of our business."

In this interview, she dives into how BAT is building strength in diversity — fostering inclusion among 141 nationalities in 175 markets, narrowing the gender pay gap to about 1%, and more.

Q How does BAT foster a diverse and inclusive culture where employees are empowered to bring their true selves to work?

From our inception in 1902, to becoming one of only a few truly global companies now present in 175+ markets, diversity has always been at the very core of our company culture.

Our ongoing commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive culture at BAT is underpinned by our ethos: to be Bold, Fast, Empowered, Responsible and Diverse. By encouraging our people to value their differences and empowering them to bring these differences to work, we have created a more engaged and united workforce which has proved critical to our success over the past few years.

We want a stretching and supportive culture founded on personal commitment and responsibility that attracts, engages, and retains the most talented and diverse people.

We have 19 affinity networks across the Group, including Women in the UK, B United (a self-governed global community of LGBT+ employees), and B.E. Y.O.U and Friends (a self-governed community for African Americans at Reynolds, our US business). These networks celebrate the differences among our employees and are pillars of strength for our business.

Q Almost 90 nationalities are represented at BAT’s company HQ in the UK alone – how do you ensure a common sense of belonging while ensuring individual needs are met?

Our ethos guides our culture and behaviours across the entire Group. The five key principles – to be 'bold, fast, empowered, responsible and diverse' – underpin how we are creating a dynamic, inspiring, and purposeful place to work. It is our ethos, together with our purpose to build A Better Tomorrow™, by reducing the health impact of our business, that drives and unites us.

Present in over 175 markets, we have 141 different nationalities (among our workforce), as well as a wide range of ethnic backgrounds in management across the Group. Our head office alone has 81 nationalities and our management board, 11. We value this kind of diversity because it encourages innovation, creativity, and different ways of thinking; it creates a fascinating place to work, with opportunities to collaborate with a wide range of people from various countries, cultures, and with different perspectives.

We are focused on creating a supportive and inclusive culture where all our people can flourish and work continually to raise awareness of diversity through campaigns, events, and workshops. Each year we celebrate National Inclusion Week, Pride Month, International Women’s Day, and International Day for Women and Girls in Science. We have ‘strength from diversity' training workshops for management-level employees to help them understand unconscious, conscious, and organisational bias. In 2021 we launched our ‘Mastering Inclusion’ training and opened it up to all our non-management employees as well. So far, more than 8,300 employees have completed the training.

We recognise that to maintain a diverse workforce we need to make sure our culture supports them, and are proud that BAT was ranked in the top 10% of companies in the 2021 Financial Times ranking for achieving a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Q The UK is tackling the issue of gender disparity and pay gap through mandatory reporting, as well as conscious efforts to increase women in senior leadership and management roles by 2025. Where is BAT on this journey?

As we transform our business and 'Build A Better Tomorrow™', we need to challenge the status quo and drive innovation. This means striving for gender balance and a mix of nationalities, ethnicities, and cross-industry experience. We have made significant progress in increasing female representation across the organisation over the past decade. We have doubled the number of females in senior roles and the number of women in the upper pay quartile has increased from 22% in 2017 to 30% in 2021.

We are committed to increasing the proportion of women in senior leadership teams to 40% and in management roles to 45% by 2025. To achieve this, we have implemented a wide range of global initiatives to ensure that women at all levels are supported at work.

Today, 36% of BAT’s main board, 8% of the management board, and 28% of our global senior management population are women. Although there are still more men than women in senior roles at BAT, when it comes to the gender pay gap, men and women are paid within 1% of one another for doing the same work, or work of equal value. In the UK, all ethnic minorities combined and UK white counterparts, are also paid within 1% of one another for doing the same work, or work of equal value.

For our 2021 reporting, we extended our disclosure to include gender pay data for employees in an additional eight countries. Together with the UK, these countries represent approximately 40% of all our employees worldwide, covering more than 19,000 people.

The positive impact of our Group-wide D&I strategy can be seen in several ways. This includes the number of women in senior roles steadily improving, the fact that 47% of our external management level recruits were women, and that women comprised 51% of our new graduate intake. Following a successful pilot launch in the UK in 2020, we also launched our IGNITE returners programme in a further nine countries, which focuses on supporting experienced professionals returning to the workplace after a career break.

Despite these improvements, we recognise that we still have some way to go. However, we are on the right track and, as we progress toward our 2025 ambitions, we will see more progress.

Q What is your advice to businesses at the start of their D&I journeys? What do they need to start – and stop – doing?

1. Foster an inclusive culture
Companies can only harness the benefits of a diverse workforce if they create an inclusive culture where employees feel they are valued regardless of their gender, ethnicity, culture, or sexuality. Nurturing this type of culture isn’t achieved through a “one and done” approach – it is a continuous process of constant improvement.

2. Practice what you preach
Companies can no longer just talk the talk when it comes to diversity. There is a need to create enablers for change. Having a diverse senior leadership demonstrates that you truly value and promote people with different backgrounds, opinions, and ideas. At BAT, not only do we have 81 nationalities in our London head office, but we also have 11 nationalities on our management board. There is more to do but we are committed to this journey.

3. Drive ownership and accountability for diversity
Companies that are looking to improve their diversity need to have a well-thought-out strategy in place and be held accountable for delivering it. Progress should be reviewed against key objectives and performance indicators. There also needs to be transparent communication, not only on the progress achieved, but on the challenges too.

4. Invest in training - and be open to what others can teach you
Interactive training sessions on issues such as unconscious bias and cultural awareness help to build knowledge and sets the tone for your values as a company. To ensure a common level of understanding and awareness, BAT has recently developed a digitally enabled D&I training which is a mandatory course for our management population.


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