On International Women’s Day, we sat down with a female leader at J&J Egypt to learn about her experience.
Amira Abdelbasset has been passionate about Human Resources since university. In 2017, she became the HR leader for North-East Africa at Johnson & Johnson, the most broadly based healthcare company in the world.
In a time of crisis, Amira’s leadership disproved any question of women’s ability to lead successfully. We asked her how she handled the Covid-19 pandemic as J&J’s HR leader.
“We had crisis management teams ready since January 2020. Employees were asked to work from home before the government had even imposed a curfew. Our primary focus was employees’ wellbeing” she explains.
From an HR perspective, J&J Egypt devised a 4-dimensional plan addressing mental, physical, social, and professional wellbeing of employees. J&J Egypt had professional psychiatrists give employees sessions about managing anxiety as well as Yoga and fitness sessions with experts. Employees were provided with screens and ergonomic chairs to improve their work-from-home experience. Leaders had virtual coffee time with employees just to check in on them. Gifts were sent out to all employees to lift their spirits. On the professional front, J&J Egypt gave employees free access to LinkedIn learning and Harvard material to help them develop their skills.
“We felt closer than ever! Looking back, I believe it was a transformative learning experience for all of us. As challenging as it was, it was very fulfilling having employees tell us they really appreciate our efforts. They felt proud to belong to J&J”, adds Amira.
As the diversity, equity and inclusion champ for the Middle East, Africa, and Turkey, Amira Abdelbasset, is always ahead of the curve. The diversity and inclusion agenda for the region is an integral element of J&J’s Credo. This of course, includes women empowerment and leadership.
Middle Eastern women face specific challenges on the road to leadership. We asked Amira how J&J Egypt supports them on that front.
“We’ve found that women struggle most with maintaining work-life balance and moving to different locations while having a family at home”, she explains. To address these challenges, J&J offered a flexible work arrangement policy, which allows women to extend their maternity leaves, work part-time, choose working hours that allow them to fulfil both their personal and professional obligations. Furthermore, female employees were offered trainings and J&J ensures they have support from mentors.
J&J worked on dedicated talent discussions for women, accelerating talents through internal mentorship program as well as external programs in collaboration with universities to accelerate female leaders in healthcare.
They also ensure we have fair hiring processes that allows diversity. Furthermore, for this year, all people leaders have a DE&I goal to achieve, which is linked to their leadership and impacts one or more of these areas: retention, development, talent acquisition and inclusion.
As for the mobility challenge, J&J offers free-location jobs and many women have regional assignments to support their development.
Amira herself is currently on an international assignment with the UK market, where she is responsible for aligning the DE&I priorities across the region. This includes, women empowerment and leadership and managing multi-generation workplaces.
While having more women in leadership positions shows great progress, Amira believes it’s not enough on its own.
“In our culture especially, female leadership needs to be normalized. Women ought to be given opportunities to reach their maximum potential”, she states.
J&J Egypt was recently recognized as one of the best places to work.
“We don’t receive such awards because of our successful leadership alone, but also because of our dedicated and passionate employees as well. Our Credo states “we must provide an inclusive work environment where each person must be considered an individual’.” she says.
“Diversity, equity, and inclusion are part of our DNA, and this is one of the main reasons for our success.” she closes.
It’s clear that Johnson & Johnson walks the talk when it comes to empowering women and providing them with leadership opportunities. May women leaders of the world continue to shatter stereotypes and break through glass ceilings!