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Growing up in the ‘80s and ’90, I was oblivious to the social and professional challenges faced by women, because my family teemed with incredible female role models. My mother and aunts were (and are) driven, passionate and competent individuals, raised by parents who taught them to see men and women as equals. As time passed, however, and I became more aware, I observed their constant struggles with gender biases and the glass ceiling in the workplace. I watched in pain, as my mother eventually chose to exit the workforce rather than suffer the unfairness anymore; and saw that world of work was poorer for it. I decided that in any way I could, I would do my bit for gender equality throughout my life.
When I started working, I knew that I wanted to work for an organization with a meaningful purpose and an inclusive culture. When I joined Schneider Electric, in 2013, I was attracted instantly to our vision, which is to empower all to make the most of their energy and resources. I was also attracted to the authenticity of the leaders I encountered, who were courageous enough to say that we had work to do on many transformations, one of them being Diversity & Inclusion (D&I). A few years later, when I heard our CEO, Jean-Pascal Tricoire, say in his HeForShe Campaign video, “I want for my daughter as many chances as for my sons”, I knew that I’d made the best choice by joining this company. We set the tone at the top!
Today, several years later, when I see Schneider Electric is recognized for its best practices and outcomes in the field of D&I (Financial Times, Catalyst, Bloomberg, and many more) I feel great pride.
Specifically, I’m incredibly proud of Schneider Electric for being named a Financial Times Leader in Diversity for the second year in a row. I’m proud to work for a company that continues to push the status quo in our industry (ranked #2) and overall (ranked #27 out of 850 companies).
It is because we are recognized for the efforts we have made to transform mindsets and practices in a massive, complex, multi-country organization with a history of +175 years. How many institutions can tell a similar story and walk the talk?
When we kicked off our D&I initiatives, it was clear that this was not about “looking good” or “ticking-the-box”. At the heart of our D&I work, there has always been a conviction that a diverse workforce at all levels is essential for innovation and high performance. Our wins in this space are the result of a carefully crafted strategy, that is implemented under the aegis of a global D&I Board and an Executive Leadership Team that holds itself accountable to our D&I ambitions.
The strategy itself is quite clear, and stands on 4 pillars:
- Empowered Diversities: While gender diversity was the first element we addressed, our work has expanded over the years to encompass Nationalities, Generations, LGBT+, and People with Disabilities. I see our leadership teams becoming ever-more diverse and including amazing people with very different backgrounds, personalities, and perspectives. As these teams turn more diverse, so do the organizations they lead. More and more, we mirror the diversity of the communities that we exist in.
- Inclusive Practices: We have made and continue to make great strides in areas like Pay Equity, Bias-Free Processes, Flexibility Principles, and our Global Family Leave Policy. It is now easier than ever, for us to support our employees’ myriad life choices, life stages, and life circumstances. We can flexibly offer them career opportunities and training that enable them to bring their best selves to work.
- Inclusive Behaviors: Challenging Hidden Biases to support a climate of psychological safety is at the heart of our work. We expect all our employees and especially our people managers to go through specific training that enables them to identify and challenge biases that inevitably creep up in human thought processes. The criticality of this for Performance Management, Talent Acquisition, Talent Development, and more needs no elaboration.
- Advocacy: Our public commitments (e.g. United Nations partnerships) and participation in prestigious awards and speaking engagements keep us accountable, enable us to learn from best-in-class peers, and also share our progress and learning with our extended global community.
Are we now 100% successful? Are all our ambitions met? No. There are many miles to go before we rest. But we are on a journey where we are closer to our ambitions than we have ever been. As I type these words, I see that:
- We have implemented a global pay equity process that covers over 99% of employees
- Our hiring of women has reached 39% at entry, and women represent 42% of our Board, 37.5% of our Executive Team, and 23% of our senior leadership positions
- 100% of our Country Leaders have signed the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles
- +31,000 employees, +4000 managers, and ~80% of our leaders have taken various forms of Hidden Bias Training
- Our Top 33 countries (89% of the workforce) have deployed telecommuting and flexible hours
And specifically in Europe, we see success in that:
- Both our France and Europe Operations are led by women Executive Vice Presidents
- Year on year, our top high potential groups in these territories see an increasing composition of women, who are identified/validated through the company’s talent review process
- In Europe, despite the challenging economic climate of 2020, we have maintained our commitment towards fostering a multi-gen workforce by continuing to do targeted hiring that helps us to build our future talent pools as well
You can cite all the numbers you want about your company and its bias-challenging inclusive climate, but deep down, you know that the test of it will always be your own individual experience. As I type these concluding words, I take heart from my own +7-year journey with Schneider Electric, which took me through 3 work locations and 2 vastly different geographies (India and MEA) before bringing me to my current position, in Europe. Today, I am a proud member of the HR Leadership Team of our Europe Operations, valued for who I am and supported by an inclusive, welcoming community. So yes, I do think we walk the talk on Diversity & Inclusion, and I know that we will continue…
Learn more about our Diversity and Inclusion initiatives here: www.se.com/diversity
Work for a company with a meaningful purpose and search for career opportunities here: www.se.com/careers