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Tuesday May 28th, 2024

Inspiring Change, Empowering Women: MAS Active’s Enduring Commitment

Amrah Akbar – Director Marketing and Business Development at MAS Active

MAS Active has a 17-year legacy throughout which it has remained committed to empowering women. With a workforce of over 17,000 and operations across ten facilities, MAS Active is a leader in Activewear, Athleisure, Performance wear, and Men’s essentials. Notable brands like Lululemon, Patagonia, Lacoste, and Gymshark are part of the customer portfolio. In this interview, Amrah Akbar, Director Marketing and Business Development at MAS Active discusses the company’s initiatives in empowering women and fostering opportunities across all organizational levels.

Provide an example of a project where you seamlessly transitioned from the initial idea phase to successful execution.

For me, two projects come to mind. The first was in collaboration with Lacoste, where MAS Active partnered with the brand to make game-day wear for Djokovic and Medvedev. We were meticulous in our approach and our research, studying climate conditions during which the garments would be worn, to design clothes that would help the players perform at their best.

The second is our partnership with Kayanee, the first activewear brand catering to Middle Eastern women. By tailoring designs for specific body types and preferences, we successfully supplied attire for Ons Jabeur, the brand’s ambassador at the 2024 Australian Open and continue to make her game-day kits. This collaboration marked a significant milestone for us as we had a six-week period within which we had to design, develop, fit, manufacture and deliver her kit. This was an exception in the apparel-making process where this process would usually take about 6-12 months. It shows the potential and capability of our teams to cater to diverse customer requirements that consistently meet international performance quality, design, and crashed timelines.

How do you see the company actively empowering women through their involvement in sports?

Supporting women is almost an inherent part of the work we do. For example, on the project with Ons Jabeur, when we inquired about her preferences—what material, style and colour of product she preferred, she was initially taken aback. She said that she had in fact not been asked this before. As an international sporting star, she hadn’t been consulted about that detail of what she would wear at her games. This underscores a significant disparity between men’s and women’s sports. Like the way, men’s games attract substantial sponsorship while women’s sports often lack comparable attention and investment. What was exciting was that we got to be a part of changing that status quo.

At MAS, we recognize this gap and strive to address it. For instance, last time we were the official clothing sponsor for the national ICC Men’s T-20 Cricket World Cup team. Likewise, we were determined to be the clothing sponsor for the women’s team too. This includes supplying their game-day attire as well as official kits for press conferences and events. Similar support is extended to our tennis teams as we continue our commitment to promoting women’s sports.

What measures has MAS Active implemented to empower women across all levels within the organization?

There are several strategies we employ to empower women across all levels, starting from learning opportunities on the shop floor. In some of our plants, our team members learn to drive and earn  an additional income by providing transportation services. We promote entrepreneurial aspirations among women. We offer professional guidance and training through which staff have pursued their own entrepreneurial endeavours, setting up successful businesses in beauty, crafts, and food.

From a company standpoint, we collaborate with socially responsible brands such as Patagonia, known for its commitment to sustainability. A portion of the revenue generated from our work with Patagonia is directed through the Fair-Trade Initiative, towards a trust that benefits our employees particularly those on the shop floor. Over the years, we’ve accumulated significant funds which have been utilised for various community projects, including securing essential resources like water, through the construction of wells and providing internet access in remote localities where our plants are located.

At the management level, MAS has a strong commitment to gender diversity, aiming for 30% representation of women in management. Currently, we have two female representatives on the board at MAS Active, reflecting how our dedication to gender equality is put into practice. Additionally, within the MAS Active ExCo, my counterparts i.e. Finance Director and HR Director are women, fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Why do you feel these opportunities are essential in empowering women at all levels?

By empowering associates on the shop floor, we not only provide fulfilling work but also offer them avenues for additional income through entrepreneurial ventures. This enables them to build better lives for themselves and their families, even outside of our company in the longer term, which is profoundly meaningful.

Furthermore, increasing the representation of women in management positions goes beyond mere statistics. It develops female leaders who serve as role models, demonstrating the possibility of achieving work-life balance and inspiring younger women to enter the workforce. The significance of having diverse leadership extends beyond individual impact; it strengthens teams and contributes to the overall success of a company. Striving for a balanced mix of talent ensures that a company can effectively achieve its goals.

Reflecting on my experience in Sri Lanka, where patriarchal norms once prevailed, it’s evident that change is taking place. But there’s still more work to be done, particularly in addressing issues like gender pay disparities which are still prevalent. MAS is a company that is making big moves in this respect and is leading the journey of creating a more equitable world.