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Women with Ambition: Up Close with Sharmeel Kaur

We are now several editions into the Women with Ambition series and this series has encouraged more people to have conversations on gender balance in the workplace. Today’s feature is about women empowerment and how we can take matters into our hands.  

In today's globalised world, we have become increasingly aware of issues such as glass ceilings and gender imbalances in the workplace. While many companies are having important discussions and taking significant actions to address these issues, there are some things that women can do to help themselves. Embarking on a journey of continuous learning is one of them. 

Read on for more insights on empowerment from Sharmeel Kaur, Head of Human Resources at DHL Asia Pacific Shared Services - Global Finance, DHL Express.   


1. JP Morgan Chase, Citibank Inc. and Mastercard are just some of the companies who have adjusted the gender pay gap to close to one percent. Can you share examples of equality practices that your firm looks closely at?

Career prospects and opportunities in DHL are the same for both men and women. Although women make up slightly over one-third of our employees, the percentage of female managers and executives within the Group continues to grow steadily. The overall percentage is 22.1%, and we are working to increase this number further.  

The current gender pay gap in the market shows that the median salary for men is roughly 19% higher than that of the median salary for women. Although year on year, the numbers show improvement, they may not be significant enough. In DHL, our average gender pay gap is approximately 8.1% which is much smaller than the market average. 


2. If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would that be?

Never ever stop learning. Self-growth is key to living a fulfilling life and having a successful career. One of the best things about life is that we never have to stop learning. I managed to attain my degree at the right age and at the right time. For most of us, getting an education is a way to success, but for me, continuous learning is the way to live life to the fullest. As we continuously look for ways to improve, success will naturally follow suit. 


3. Who inspires you and why?

I do not have anyone in particular as I've been blessed to be inspired by everyone I've had contact with my entire life. I tend to see the best in everyone I've met, and it is these people who, in turn, have inspired me in every way possible.  Many of my traits come from my parents. My father was always ambitious about improving himself, especially in his career. He always ensured he had enough financially, even for me and my brother to study abroad. My mother was always an iron lady - juggling her career and nurturing us at the same time. She was always an admirable employee in her plant.   


4. What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?

Simply by having the right level of confidence! There’s never going to be the right time to speak, share an idea, or take a risk. Just seize the moment — don’t let thoughts like "I don’t feel like I’m ready" get in the way. Be aware of opportunities as they arise so that you can seize the moment.) I understand that "motherhood penalties" can get to some women at times but do not let this become a barrier in building your career or even upskilling yourself.  


5. As a female leader, what has been the most significant barrier in your career?

Not realising my potential in Human Resources at an early age. I have a degree in Computer Science from the UK. I started my career in IT at a young age, working as a System Analyst in projects. IT has never been my cup of tea, but I was too afraid to take the leap and change the direction of my career. When I finally did, I was able to prosper because I am highly passionate about people. I rose in my career when I realised my potential, and there was no turning back. 

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