Natalia Mayorova:

Natalia Mayorova:

“Women can make the business world a better place”

How and why one of the biggest tobacco companies in the world, Philip Morris International, pays special attention and supports women’s empowerment in different parts of the world.  Interview with General Manager of Philip Morris Armenia Natalia Mayorova. 

Interview : Areg Davtyan   
Photo : Philip Morris Armenia, Bravo.am

This March Philip Morris International (PMI) presented its new revolutionary smoke free product IQOS to the Armenian legal age smokers. Since then, trained staff of a comfortable IQOS pop-up located in Dalma Garden mall has been presenting the new ritual of enjoying tobacco taste with no combustion through providing guided trials, explaining how the device works and advising how to use the benefits of IQOS compared with traditional cigarettes. A crowd of the first users that gathered at the pop-up showed a huge demand for IQOS, which highlighted once again the readiness of Armenian people to challenge the status quo, their craving of innovations and the endless striving for new achievements. Meanwhile we learned that PMI also intends establishing an R&D facility here in Armenia, and the recruitment of the management staff is in process. Finally, the company just moved to the new comfortable office in the center of Yerevan, where the most creative and innovative ideas have a comfortable room to rise. All of these revealed our interest towards the company, and we decided to better understand the current situation and PMA plans.

By coincidence, we discovered the company is being managed by the General Manager Natalia Mayorova – a successful woman in business – who perfectly matches the topic of Regional Post’s new issue. Our journalist had an interesting talk with PMA GM around what PMI is doing for empowering women in general and how Natalia personally feels being a businesswoman in Armenia in particular. We discussed with Natalia issues related to women’s empowerment in the world and in Armenia: though a lot has changed during the previous years, women in our society still have a lot to achieve.

Natalia, what are the main difficulties for women being in the workforce?

— Do you remember a quote from the famous song: “This is a man’s world”? (laughs) Somehow it is true due to objective reasons. Except business results, the society expects many things from a woman: to care about the family, keep the household, bear children, be a good mother raising the next generation. So, for those women who, however, don’t wish to leave business, it is twice hard as compared to men: And, oftentimes, this 24/7 “housework” calls for more of women’s lifetime investment than the other one with its fixed eight-hour schedule. Still, whether to follow her career path or to go into the family – the choice is up to the woman. There can’t be right answers, or recommendations: the choice is individual. Nevertheless, for those women who decide to take both “jobs”, it is hard indeed. And for those women who, however, have decided to stay in the workforce, I recall a quote from the book “Lean in” by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, a succeeding woman in business and a caring mother, who not once has faced issues related to women’s empowerment. The advice that Sheryl gave women in business is simple – don’t underestimate yourself. Negotiate for yourself. Attribute your success to yourself. On one occasion she also said: “Women systematically underestimate their own abilities. Women do not negotiate for themselves in the workforce. A study in the last two years of people entering the workforce out of college showed that 57 percent of boys entering, or men, I guess, are negotiating their first salary, and only seven percent of women are. And most importantly, men attribute their success to themselves, and women attribute it to other external factors. If you ask women why they did a good job, what they’ll say is someone helped them, they got lucky, they worked really hard”.

How diverse is Philip Morris Armenia’s staff, and how it affects company’s work?

— We are proud to have adopted an inclusive attitude in our office. We demonstrate an open and equal approach to the employees of both genders, male and female. More than 40% of co-workers at Philip Morris Armenia and more than the half of the top management are women. There are also many mothers on maternity leave currently, who are taking care of their babies without any worry, knowing that they can go back to work whenever they find it convenient. Moreover, by practicing the buddies’ assignment for both newcomers and those who come back from any work breaks, we keep thinking of adopting better working conditions and changing business reality.

What kind of impact in empowering women has your company had over the years?

— The women’s empowerment is one of the cornerstones of Philip Morris sustainability strategy. This company with more than 150 years of history for decades does number of women’s empowerment programs in different parts of the world. PMI is dedicated to ensuring that women and girls have equal access to quality education and economic resources in an environment free of violence, exploitation, or gender-bias.

Why do you think it is important for young women?

— I think that only equipped with knowledge and skills women can unlock their full potential and enjoy equal leadership opportunities. That is why PMI has programs which enhance economic opportunities for women through vocational training and start-up grants.

IQOS launch in Dalma Garden Mall, Yerevan

How well does this approach work?

— Let me give you two examples. In East and Central Java PMI has Community Learning Center that helps women in farming families build their entrepreneurial skills. In tandem, our after-school program raises awareness on child-labor issues and ensures that children get proper education. Thousands of women directly benefited from it. Thousands!

Since 2014, PMI runs a Women’s Empowering and Leadership Program in the Nan and Phrae provinces of Thailand. Through these programs women learn how they can take leadership positions in the local communities. They develop proposals and may get funding to realize their plans.

PMI is also partnering with Womanity Foundation. What is the aim of this partnership?

— Womanity Foundation is a nonprofit organization that “undertakes to empower girls and women in developing countries to shape their future and accelerate progress within their communities.” The company is supporting their WomenChangeMakers (WCM) fellowship program which identifies, supports, and connects transformational social entrepreneurs across India and Brazil. The program aims at advancing women’s economic participation by supporting social entrepreneurship opportunities, boosting women’s social and political leadership, and promoting their health and well-being.

What is it like being a female leader in Armenia, far from home, in a country with different traditions?

— I came to Armenia a year ago. And, even though Armenian and Russian people historically have a lot in common, when I was offered the position, I was asked if I was ready to take the challenge of working in a different environment, in a country with its unique – and as I later discovered for myself – quite incredible traditions and people, with its own way of going through life. I said yes, as you can see. Because, even though “this is a man’s world”, still “it wouldn’t be nothing without a woman or a girl.” (laughs again)

If seriously, it is not important who you are – a man or a woman: there are basic principles of successful business relations, which I identified for myself here. First of all, in every situation it is important to understand the culture of the country, traditions of the society and the “rules of the game”. It is necessary to adapt to the cultural characteristics and not to try to change people at your will: instead, try to adhere to their culture and to feel it through your heart.

Another important aspect is to enjoy and believe in what you are doing and love people around you. You need to invest your time and desire to build relationships and trust your partners and colleagues: be honest, walk-the-talk and listen to their needs, all this can help you to achieve win-win cooperation.

The last but not the least: start any business negotiations by inner spiritual message to the partner – “I wish you luck and happiness” – and no matter what, remember about the “big Armenian heart”!

So, now you know all my secrets, Areg-jan, and merci shat for the interesting interview!