Empowering Women in the New Normal

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The status of women in the workplace is perhaps the best reflection of the state of gender equity in world societies and cultures. Women in the workplace signify independence; their empowerment indicates an evolved society that values gender equity. While women generally start working after completion of their education, only a small percentage go on to hold leadership roles.  During these unprecedented times, the world as we know it is changing significantly, and conventional roles are being redefined. As a proud and empowered female leader at Schneider Electric, I would like to put the spotlight on something that’s close to my heart: women empowerment.

Long-term challenges

The world has significantly evolved in terms of gender equity, and the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic perfectly illustrates the leading role played by women in the healthcare workforce, as an example. However, several challenges still exist with regards to women empowerment.

Women constitute approximately 70% of the global health workforce. However, they represent just a quarter of senior roles in the industry. The electricity and energy sector is no different. an article published by the International Energy Agency highlights that women comprise 22% of the workforce in the oil and gas sector and 32% in renewables, while making up 48% of the global workforce. This highlights the importance of ensuring that women empowerment continues in this ‘new normal’.

The new normal: our opportunity to promote gender equity

The unprecedented crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the emergence of poignant success stories where many women-led nations have done significantly better in flattening the curve and successfully containing the spread of the disease.

Although the challenges pertaining to women empowerment will not vanish overnight, the emergence of effective women-leadership during the COVID pandemic has presented us with strong role models. This pandemic and the transition to the new normal is an excellent opportunity for us to stop and reflect about the status of women in the workplace, to explore ways to strengthen their participation, and most importantly, to promote gender equity.

Encouraging diversity and gender equity

As we begin to rebuild the world economy, it is imperative that across sectors, women leaders emerge, to inspire change and to encourage women participation in the workplace. At a time when the world is having to think on its feet, it is highly relevant that we encourage diversity, because a diverse organizational and social culture is better placed to drive innovation and critical thinking. The challenges are clear; the success stories exist. What is needed is effective implementation of gender equity measures, which essentially means treating both genders in a way that is fair, and in accordance with the needs of each.

The creation of jobs and increased access to leadership roles are the first steps to bringing women from diverse backgrounds into mainstream high-level decision making, thereby opening up diverse opinions and creativity. The process does not end with the creation of job opportunities. It is equally important to implement equitable and inclusive policies: of a rigorous pay equity framework, global family leave, and flexible work policies. Here at Schneider Electric, we strive to make all of this a reality.

While the framing and implementation of inclusive policies are essential in the workplace, a massive effort in awareness, education, mentoring, training, networking and counselling on gender equity for both sexes is also required, to ensure a strong, inclusive social and organizational fabric.

An inclusive work culture

As a tangible proof-point of this, we at Schneider Electric took a critical step towards championing gender equality and inclusivity best practices, by pledging our unanimous commitment to the UN Women Empowerment principles. Launched in 2010 by UN Global Compact and UN Women, the seven Women’s Empowerment Principles businesses on how best to empower women in the workplace, the marketplace and the community.

Our support for women empowerment is also illustrated through our commitment to  HeForShe. This global movement, which we have championed for the past four years, seeks to drive change on gender equality through bold commitments to a collaborative effort in promoting the empowerment of women. Our women-oriented policies have won us coveted recognition across countries, including the United States, India, Brazil, France, and Russia. As a result, Schneider Electric has been included in the 2020 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index (GEI), for our public commitment to gender equality and our transparency in reporting.

Nadège Petit hosting a women empowerment mentoring session in Hong Kong
Mentoring session in Hong Kong earlier this year

I have been extremely fortunate to have had so many opportunities to network and support wonderful women in the energy industry and to mentor numerous female talents individually, as well as in groups. Echoing the commitment of Schneider Electric in letter and in spirit, it is my resolve to continue to create and sustain a transformative and inclusive culture within the organization and beyond, supporting the empowerment and leadership of women.

I invite you to continue the conversation with me on LinkedIn.

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