Interview with Paola Hernández, Sustainability Manager of Sodimac Corona and its brands Homecenter and Constructor: Differences are opportunities for business learning
What are your policies to promote gender equity and diversity?
We strive for an inclusive society and recognize the value of every person and their fundamental contribution to building the country, regardless of their condition. We have implemented programs and strategies that have allowed us to advance in guaranteeing the rights of all people who are part of this company, and today we have a robust policy that includes: a transparent and non-discriminatory selection and hiring process; promoting professional development, training, and promotion of our employees under equitable and fair standards; equal opportunities to receive legal and extra-legal benefits without any discrimination; work-life balance with co-responsibility; rejection of any form of sexual and/or labor harassment; and finally, our policy guarantees a work environment and a culture of health where well-being is the rule.
What is meant by gender equity and diversity?
These are terms that are ingrained in our organizational culture. We understand diversity as the differentiating and unique attribute that our employees and stakeholders have, who enrich us when we interact with them. Equity is perceived as the opportunity that all people have to be equally valued and to have the same status and conditions to exercise their rights.
What motivated you to implement these policies?
We were motivated by the possibility of contributing to the construction of a fair, inclusive society with equal opportunities for all, where it is recognized that all people have the same value just because they are human. A society where differences are opportunities for learning and where each individual is valued as they are.
What actions accompanied their implementation?
We are constantly conducting sensitization activities, workshops, talks, and celebrations with meaning, and enabling other spaces with experts to address issues that help us implement this policy and make it stronger over time. We celebrate LGBTI Community Day, on the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia, we train employees, especially in Human Resources and Marketing, and we opened "Inspired Sodimac," a co-creation space for women whose purpose is to generate knowledge, create, share, and transform environments addressing different themes.
Last year, for example, we worked to facilitate access and training for women in basic areas of the construction sector through the "I Believe in Building My Future" program, which has benefited 207 women, of whom 23 are already hired. On the other hand, through the "A Field Free of Stereotypes" campaign, we raised awareness about the limitations faced by girls and adolescents who want to dedicate themselves to soccer in Colombia.
How do these policies progress?
Regarding gender equity, we had a positive variation of 6% in the number of women hired between 2021 and 2022. On the other hand, the number of activities focused on women (International Women's Day, Mother's Day, Connection Moms workshops, among others) in 2022 was 14 times higher than in 2021.
It is important to clarify that, in our company, promotion, and recognition are based on the merit and skills of employees, regardless of their gender. In our work environment, we value and promote equal opportunities and respect for all individuals.
What happens when you open a job vacancy and do not achieve gender parity in the resumes received?
We ensure that both women and men receive the same treatment and opportunities throughout the entire process. This commitment to non-discrimination is the reason why our job postings do not distinguish between genders, and we seek to have an appropriate balance of gender representation in managerial and senior positions. Our company policy dictates that in every selection list presented, there must be at least one woman, and we have always been able to comply with this policy.
Can you recall a case where your gender equity policy has had an impact?
I can tell you the case of Maria Jose Maldonado, one of our collaborators at the Homecenter Cali Sur store. She had to go through a very difficult and personal process while carrying out her duties in the organization. She is transgender. Some time ago, we had the opportunity to hear her testimony, and she told us that before the change, she had an alienated and frustrated life, so one day she decided to seek help.
When she started this process, she informed her bosses to put them in the context of the situation. The response she received from the company was one of respect, support, and empathy, and this motivated training her colleagues and superiors to understand her even better and, of course, be prepared for other situations in the future.
What policies do you have in place for women who are in the lactation period, are sick, or are caregivers for a close family member?
We have the "Connection Moms" community, designed for pregnant and lactating moms and dads. This community allows for close interaction during this life moment to share relevant information, participate in workshops with experts, exchange experiences, ideas, and advice, and create support bonds within the work environment. During 2022, we had 146 registered in the program, of which 81 are employees and 65 are wives, all of whom benefited from different virtual encounters and workshops. It is important to highlight that, for the last two cases, we have flexible work options, including options such as Home Office, Virtual Office, and flexible entry and exit times. These options are extra-legal benefits of social welfare that can be enjoyed by the worker's initiative, provided that they notify the corresponding team.