Diageo launches Plan W for empowering women

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Stephane Gripon, General Manager of Diageo Vietnam, delivers a speech on the company's Plan W for empowering women at a press conference in Ho Chi Minh City April 24

Diageo Vietnam is providing US$756,000, equivalent to VND16 billion, to empower Vietnamese women.

Diageo Vietnam, whose mother company Diageo plc is British-based, is focusing its goals on three main areas, namely the company, hospitality industry and communities.

Stephane Gripon, general manager of Diageo Vietnam, said at a media briefing in Ho Chi Minh City on April 24 that "Plan W - empowering women through training" is a five-year campaign, committing $10 million to benefit two million women in 17 countries in Asia-Pacific including employees at Diageo, those in the hospitality industry and others who need funds and knowledge to develop their own businesses.

The plan has been customized to Vietnam and is expected to empower around 45,000 women by 2017, he said.

Vietweek: What is the inspiration for the campaign and why did you choose Vietnam?

Stephane Gripon: The campaign is inspired by the fact that two-thirds of people in the hospitality industry worldwide are women.

And statistics, released by the Vietnam National Committee for the Advancement of Women, show that more and more women are being empowered and are raising their voices in many sectors. Vietnam is one of the few countries in the Asia-Pacific region with female representation in its National Assembly at over 27 percent, while the ratio of female university graduates is 36.24 percent, postgraduates 33.95 percent, and PhDs 25.69 percent.

But Vietnamese public life is still traditionally viewed as a predominantly male domain. Women still have limited access to education and employment opportunities, so they need support to improve their sense of self-worth and ability to influence society and the economy. When women are empowered, society wins.

I strongly believe that Plan W will help Diageo Vietnam make a difference in offering our female staff choices and opportunities to maximize their chance of success as well as promote them to positions of influence in our company. We are looking at a long-term method to help the industry and community, with the bartender training program and a bunch of CSR activities, and now with Plan W we pin high hopes on creating many impactful changes to our industry in which women account for 72 percent of employees as well as the communities where we operate.

How can you help Vietnamese women via the campaign?

Gripon: Plan W will take a tailored approach and consider the specific environment and needs of women by providing them with opportunities to learn and develop skills. In Vietnam, the campaign will focus on three areas - employees at Diageo, the hospitality industry and communities.

We will ensure workplace diversity at Diageo Vietnam. Female employees will be offered choices and opportunities to maximize their chance of success as well as being promoted to positions of influence. We also provide them with soft skills training focused on work-life balance, given that many of them are also mothers and wives at home, and self-defense, especially for women traveling to and from work.

For the industry, we have piloted a bartender skills program, sending products and trainers to the three biggest hospitality training schools in Ho Chi Minh City - Saigontourist, Nguyen Truong To, and Khoi Viet - for the targeted benefit of 1,000 bartenders.

For our communities, we will partner with local NGOs to deliver skills-based training and seek funding for marginalized women to start their own businesses.

What do you expect the company to gain from the campaign?

I believe that Plan W is an investment in our business as it helps us achieve our diversity targets, which in turn helps to grow the economies in which we operate and to develop skills in the F&B and hospitality sectors that are crucial to our success.

As for the bigger picture, we hope that Plan W will contribute to the government's efforts in the implementation of the 20112020 National Strategy and 20112015 National Program on Gender Equality.


Stephane Gripon shakes hands with Pham Kieu Oanh, founder of the Center for Social Initiatives Promotion, as an announcement of their commitment to Plan W at the April 24 press conference 

Diageo Vietnam has announced a tie-up with the Hanoi-based Center for Social Initiatives Promotion (CSIP) to deliver skills-based training and seek funding to marginalized women to start their own businesses, starting with a combined $61,000 in the first year.

CSIP, a leading NGO in Vietnam in supporting social entrepreneurship, will publicize the campaign regularly on its website and work closely with local women's associations so that the help reaches more women in need.

It will use part of the money to help with technical training and market research, guaranteeing that the campaign offers women a sustainable income to ensure a living for themselves and be able to help their families.

Diageo has a wide range of brands like Johnnie Walker, Crown Royal, J&B, Windsor, Buchanan's and Bushmills whiskies; Smirnoff, Ciroc and Ketel One vodkas; Baileys, Captain Morgan, Jose Cuervo, Tanqueray and Guinness.

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