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Nestlé wants to empower more women to work in engineering

By Jenny Eagle+

11-Mar-2014
Last updated on 11-Mar-2014 at 11:20 GMT

Agathe Vanier
Agathe Vanier

As the United Nations held its 6th Annual Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) in New York, last week, Nestlé shared its efforts to encourage women worldwide to work in the marketplace and community.

The manufacturer will send eight of its graduates to the Big Bang young scientists and engineers fair, at Birmingham NEC, in the UK on Thursday, including Hannah Whall, 23, a project engineer on Nestlé UK’s Engineering Graduate Programme.

Male dominated industry

Whall studied chemical engineering at Newcastle University for four years and graduated with a Masters. She joined the graduate scheme in September 2013 and is based in Halifax. She will spend one year working in the confectionery division then the second year in the beverage sector.

She is currently the only female engineer in the confectionery factory in Halifax and admitted the profession is ‘very male dominated’.

There are female staff, especially in the quality and HR departments (but), it is very male dominated. I am the only female engineer in the factory,” she said.

Engineering doesn’t always appeal to women, that’s why we need to raise awareness of what we actually do,” she told FoodProductionDaily.com.

It’s important to spread the word so that people don’t stereotype the profession. There’s more to the role than ‘oil and gas’. There are a lot of challenges such as health and safety, risk assessments and the hygienic aspect of food engineering.

There are lots of opportunities available in the food industry and there is a real need for women in this area. Joining a company like Nestlé both in the UK and abroad is not going to limit them at all.

There’s no reason why women can’t do this job. People look quite highly on female engineers as there aren’t many about.”

Global Jobs Challenge

The two-day WEPs event focused on Gender Equality and the Global Jobs Challenge looking at what business strategies increase job opportunities for women and how to overcome challenges to access decent jobs.

Nestlé claims it has provided nearly 750,000 women worldwide with business, entrepreneurial and technical skills as part of its commitment to female empowerment in the marketplace.

It has developed Women’s Empowerment Initiatives in countries including Argentina, Brazil, Côte d’Ivoire, the Dominican Republic, India, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Thailand, Venezuela and Vietnam.

For example, Comfort Dorkutso, 31, lives in Ghana. She joined Nestlé Professional's My Own Business (MYOWBU) street vending programme in 2012, selling coffee to morning commuters.

Agathe Vanier, (pictured), is the president of COPAZ, a cocoa cooperative based in Divo, in central-western Côte d'Ivoire. In 2010, her 600-woman cooperative joined the Nestlé Cocoa Plan where they receive high-yielding, disease-tolerant cocoa seedlings and technical assistance.

Nestlé Cocoa Plan

The cooperative also received support from Nestlé to buy a truck for delivering cocoa beans.

In our tradition, cocoa farming was only reserved for men," said Vanier. "We fought for our right to some land and the Nestlé Cocoa Plan supports us."

With the income she is able to take care of her mother, siblings and her niece, left in her care after the death of her sister.

Nestlé added through these schemes, it plans to scale up its activities and programmes to boost education, training and professional development for women and girls in underprivileged areas.

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