- Societal setting - which is largely male-dominated - is a set-back for women when it comes to attaining top leadership positions. Naomi John, a manager at Coca Cola Kwanza, says women can still reach their goals - provided they are fully determined
Naomi John is Coca Cola Kwanza’s Learning and Development manager. She says women struggle a lot to attain top leadership positions because of the way the social setting almost invariably sidelines women.
She says for her to get to where she is today, she had to be resilient, committed to the work ethic and be ready to learn from others.
Naomi says setting up personal goals and matching them up with those of the organisation is also crucial in one’s career growth.
How she joined Coca Cola Kwanza Limited
“I joined Coca Cola Kwanza Limited on March 1, 2015. I started off as a Human Resource officer at the Mbeya plant. In 2019, I was transferred to Dar es Salaam as in-charge of Learning and Development,” says Naomi.
She says her main responsibility is to develop internal resources within the Coca Cola Kwanza company, as well as build a learning culture within the organization.
How Coca Cola Kwanza Ltd honours gender equality policy
“We have just categorized different services in HR department. There is a section where we focus on leadership competence, individual and team development,” says Naomi.
According to her, Coca Cola Kwanza has initiatives that aims at creating gender balance whereas as of currently, the organization has attained the balance of 50 percent women in leadership positions, hence, it is a 50-50 situation.
“We have different development programmes that are specific for grooming women, whereas we have a one year entrance programme called Graduate-in-Training (G-i-T) that was started 12 years ago,” Naomi explains.
Despite cutting across for all genders, Naomi says that the company prioritises competent women graduates with functional skills.
The second initiative is a programme called Management Talent Development Programme (MTDP) which is special for people at managerial levels. She further says that MTDP is for grooming women and developing them as they take on directorial roles.
“The third initiative is called Bulletproof Manager. This cuts across gender - but women are still accorded priority as we aim at uplifting them,” says Naomi.
The fourth initiative is a woman-centred programme called Women-in-Leadership (W-i-L). Started about ten years ago, W-i-L has so far groomed and nurtured women who are currently in the company’s different managerial and directorial levels.
Naomi insists that the W-i-L programme has been successful, due to the mileage it has given Coca Cola Kwanza.
Her Leadership Journey
“Being the first born in my family, I assumed the responsibility of a ‘deputy parent’ to my siblings, and a leader at a very young age. This enhanced the desire in me to grow up into a person who would be a leader of people,” she says.
With a grown up mindset, Naomi still has a map that is directing her to where she wants to be in future.
According to her, women leadership positions can be learned through attainable skills - as these are what make and define a a good leader.
She talks of formal training for leadership positions, whereas she says a person can receive 30 percent of formal training for a leadership role and 70 percent of informal training which are led by the particular skills practices.
“Formal training has its own values. But a higher percentage must be on the side of skills practising in the field as it were - as it highly impacts a woman positively to be the leader she wants to be,” Naomi explains.
During her role as the Learning and Development manager, she received formal coaching. She then started the sessions last year - which continues to this day.
“Coaching has helped me unleash my potential, because my coach does not give me directives on how to do my work, he instead guides me whilst I do it all by myself,” Naomi notes.
As she addresses the lack of diversity for women in top leadership, she says that the situation has been the same for almost ten years, with little progress in terms of gender balance.
“There is still lack of awareness on the importance of gender equality among men and women, it can be tackled by making creation of opportunities for women as well as the strengthening of the grip for such chances by women,” explains Naomi.
She reveals that professionally, women never bring fellow women down but it’s the society that has made people to think poorly of women.
Naomi - who graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Management from the Tumaini University in 2014 - enigmatically says: ‘Sharks eat Sharks, so you must be the stronger shark to survive!’
“You (women) have to make yourself available for the opportunities that are out there. Learn to dare yourself and challenge yourself to a whole better version in your career,” she counsels.
Naomi says if she had to change anything in her past, it would be time allocation and management.
She concludes by advising women that they are wired to undertake multi-tasking - and this is their main weapon in life.
“Women can assume a number of responsibilities, potentially making them capable of anything,” she says, full of confidence.