International Women’s Day on Wednesday March 8 is a time to call for the empowerment of women around the world. Locally, it’s a good time to ask the question: Can more be done to create equal opportunities for Australian women in 2017?

The answer is yes. Young women from Australia’s most disadvantaged areas are 21% less likely to finish high school1, and it’s statistics like these that prompted The Coca-Cola Company to create the 5by20 program. The global initiative aims to enable the economic empowerment of five million women by 2020. 

 

In 2016 the program partnered with The Beacon Foundation to support young Australian women through career mentoring. 

Coca-Cola South Pacific president Roberto Mercadé is a strong advocate for gender equality and the 5by20 program.

“The Australian 5by20 program has been hugely successful in connecting our Coca-Cola workforce with young disadvantaged women through valuable online mentoring. It supports their school experience, lowers drop-out rates and sets young women up for a successful career and brighter future,” he said. 

5by20 mentor, working mum and nutrition and regulatory affairs manager at Coca-Cola South Pacific, Bobbie Crothers, shared the top pieces of advice she wished she’d received in high school and why it’s important to find your own path. 

1. Find out what’s possible

“When I was finishing high school I loved science and sport but the only direction offered to me was to become a physical education teacher,” Bobbie said.

Bobbie started her university studies but wasn’t convinced she’d chosen the right thing so she went travelling and stumbled across a book on nutrition in a German library. 

“In Munich I picked up one of the few English language books in the library. It was on nutrition and I was fascinated. I felt the world had opened up to me. I saw possibilities in my career I hadn’t thought of before,” Bobbie said.

The advice here is do your research – ask friends, family and co-workers about themselves and take time out to discover what’s available to you.

2. Back yourself and be brave

“When you’re young it’s not always easy to feel confident in your ability,” Bobbie said.

“Often your ideas and instincts are correct or at least heading in the right direction. It took me a while to realise how important it was to believe in myself and now I enjoy encouraging others to ‘just go for it’,” she said.  

Self-belief is key to discovering hidden talents. This could mean speaking up which can show people your potential and lead to greater confidence.

3. Respect your circle

“Respect those above you, beside you and below you. It’s important to respect everyone in your work circle from a graduate through to your senior leadership team,” Bobbie said. 

“I was always taught that respecting my seniors meant listening and never speaking up so I spent a lot of my career lacking bravery. Respect doesn’t mean not speaking. It means knowing when to speak,” she said.

4. Share your success 

“Success is far better and much more satisfying when it’s shared,” Bobbie said.

In a video interview Bobbie’s colleague, Maree Kirk, group marketing manager at Coca-Cola South Pacific, said success means bringing people with you. 

“What inspires me is seeing people be successful in the team, growing in confidence,” Maree said.

“Ownership and control of projects are not as important as ensuring that everyone on the journey with you is part of the success,” she said. 

According to Bobbie, success isn’t a race with others. Don’t let people that compare and compete change your course of action. 

5. Be nimble 

There isn’t only one way to do things according to Bobbie. You must be able to learn and change. 

“What may have worked for you or a project in the past may not always work in the future. Be open minded to new ways of achieving results,” Bobbie said.

Why mentoring is key

The potential positive impacts of mentoring are huge and Coca-Cola is proud to support young Australian women in this way. 

“Equality for young women in education is one of the first steps towards ensuring women in Australia realise their full potential,” said Coca-Cola Australia head Roberto Mercadé.

Networking and mentoring is vital for an engaged workforce within Coca-Cola. Global education programs such as Women’s Linc help contribute to more than 32 per cent of leadership positions being held by women. 

Women in Coca-Cola by the numbers

  • Over 8,500 women in the Coca-Cola Company
  • Women in leadership roles within The Coca-Cola Company have increased by 4% in the last four years alone
  • Women in leadership positions in The Coca-Cola Company now number over 32% 
  • Overall, almost half of employees (43%) in Coca-Cola are female
  • Within Coca-Cola South Pacific, the Senior leadership team if 50% women
  • 5by20 aims to economically enable 5 million women by 2020 globally
  • In 2016 the 5by20 program was launched in Australia
  • Since its launch 650 young women have been economically enabled in Australia
  • More than 1.2 million women have been economically enabled since 2010
  • 8 March is international Women’s Day

To find out more about creating a meaningful future for young Australians, check out The Beacon Foundation.

1. Tracking equity: Comparing outcomes for women and girls across Australia