Celebrated worldwide every year on November 19th, International Men’s Day recognizes the positive value men bring to the world, their families, and communities, seeking to address the challenges that men face due to gender stereotypes. At Schneider Electric, we globally recognize this day, leveraging the role of men in building an inclusive company and addressing gender stereotypes. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year we focus on raising awareness on allyship & role modeling to build an inclusive community and leveraging our New Ways of Working & Inclusive Policies built for both men and women to manage their unique life and work.
Personally, it has been already a year and a half ago since I joined Schneider Electric. I knew it would be one of the most challenging but also exciting experiences of my life so far. And I was right. It has not been only because I was relocating from Europe to the United States or even for facing a global pandemic abroad, but also because I was starting a new position in a new company, and in a new field to me: Diversity & Inclusion. I had previous roles in Communications and Marketing, and I was used to being involved in HR projects so I thought it would be a great opportunity as I could learn a lot from my new colleagues.
Today, on International Men’s Day, it is interesting to reflect on how I tried to be mentally prepared for this journey. My thoughts were focused on how it would be living in a new city, a different working culture, new colleagues, etc. But what I never thought about was the fact that all my colleagues I would closely work with would be women, as I had always worked in gender-mixed teams. After a few weeks of working in my new position, I started collaborating with different teams within the company. In the next months, I also worked with external organizations and partners. And guess what, everyone I worked with was women. It was then when I realized something: I switched from being part of the majority of the workforce to belong to an unexpected minority.
Like many, I felt a bit outside of my “comfort zone” for being the only (or one of few) men on staff which, by the way, is not the case in most of our company, where women represent 33% of the total workforce. But I took it as an opportunity to challenge myself and face certain biases that we all have. During this time, I have learned that once you understand and recognize what it feels like to be in a minority, you really realize why it is so important for all men to advocate for women in the workplace, as well as for women to address gender stereotypes that men face in order to build an inclusive company.
Dear male colleagues, if you are also in the minority, please do not let this hold you back and raise your voice to influence the majority to advocate for gender inclusion. This is about building trust and confidence, not about gender. At Schneider Electric, our Diversity and Inclusion mission has evolved from ensuring equal opportunity for all our employees, women and men, to ensure equity for all, which has had a significant impact on our journey to achieve gender equality.
Play your role as an Ally
As we work to achieve gender equality, which usually means improving women’s representation, it is also important to have gender balance in the different teams within a company. This means building equality from the bottom to the top while keeping a balance among all business fields and position levels. The professor of Social Science from the University Carlos III in Madrid, Margarita Torre, came up with the term “Stopgappers”, which represent a group of men who, due to gender-specific pressures, leave their female-dominated team or sector. This has negative consequences because the continual exit of men from these occupations further reproduces occupational gender segregation.
Therefore, our role as allies (as both men and women), is key to foster an inclusive workplace. Allyship is about being an informed advocate to support minorities of all kinds, which starts by listening with empathy and learning from other’s stories and backgrounds. In order to efficiently support these minorities, it is vital to address gender stereotypes as they are societal assumptions that frame the way people interact with one another. It is through empathy that we can really overcome biases and face discrimination. At Schneider Electric, embracing differences is core to our DNA, and allows us to build an inclusive community where everyone can be their authentic selves to manage their unique life and work.
“Rethink” to make an Impact
Today, the majority of workplaces around the world have come a long way in terms of improving gender inclusion. But let’s think about it this way: it is important to incorporate as many different views as possible, and this means having more gender balance. If we want to achieve more women representation in our workforces, especially in managerial positions, organizations and leaders need to set a Diversity & Inclusion strategy focused on hiring, internal promotion and retention. From my personal experience, I have learned that coming from the majority, but currently being the minority in a team, also has some advantages: it places you in a unique position, providing new lenses to analyze deeper and understand faster.
Now just take a moment to engage in self-reflection about any preconceived ideas that you may have about gender inclusion. My advice is to examine what assumptions you may have and how they were conceived – understand your unconscious bias. If you embed Diversity & Inclusion in your decisions, you will have more creativity and collaboration which, by the way, drives success in organizations. Because of that and, as a man working primarily with women, I can proudly say that my role in Diversity & Inclusion has been one of the most rewarding positions I have held to date.
“I am Me, I am Unique, I am Schneider Electric”.