After returning from maternity leave in January, I felt disconnected with what was going on within Schneider Electric. I wanted to get more involved in areas I cared about. So, when Women in Schneider Electric (WiSE) held a recruitment event looking for volunteers to help plan a virtual event for International Women’s Day (IWD), I knew I had to sign up. It was the perfect chance to jump into a project I was passionate about.
This year’s IWD theme is about choosing to challenge gender bias and inequality. On March 8th the world celebrated IWD, and I joined my colleagues around the world sharing #ChooseToChallenge posts and celebrating locally. But Schneider Electric and WiSE wanted to keep the momentum going all month long, and part of that involved hosting a large scale virtual event.
This event is happening this week, and will feature Annette Clayton, North American President and CEO of Schneider Electric and Telva M. McGruder, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer for General Motors, discussing the important topic of “Gender Equity in the Workplace.” This event was so much fun to plan. I took part in reaching out to leaders within SE and asking them to record a video of themselves answering the question “How did the pandemic this past year affect your ways of working?” Inspired by their responses, I have decided to share how my way of working has changed and the ways I’ve seen Schneider Electric help forge a gender equal world. For me, 2020 was all about embracing change.
Change #1 – New Work “Normal”
I had worked for Schneider Electric for only six months before I was sent home to work indefinitely during the pandemic. At the same time, daycares closed. My three-year-old son would spend the next two months at home. Suddenly, I had to find a new balance between work and family life.
Boston College Center for Work & Family published an article about how COVID-19 impacted women in the workplace. It shared that “Over the course of the first 12 weeks of the pandemic, the number of mothers ages 25-44 not working due to COVID-related childcare issues increased 4.8% compared to no increase among men.” I can relate to the women who made the decision to leave the workforce. During this time, it was not uncommon to hear an episode of Paw Patrol in the background of a conference call or to find me with my computer working on the back patio while my son played on his swing set. This became my new normal. Schneider Electric was understanding and flexible during this time. I am grateful for the values in place that didn’t force me to choose between work and caring for my family.
Change #2 – Pandemic Baby
In September of last year, I gave birth to my second child. Having a new baby is a big change in itself, but overnight my top concern became my health and safety as I spent a lot of time in and out of the doctor’s office. Working from home, even after our local hub reopened, allowed me to feel safe and limit my exposure to the virus. Additionally, the 12 weeks fully paid parental leave allowed me to soak up precious time with my daughter.
This past year, Schneider Electric was inclusive to all people’s preferences of work, whether they chose to report to the office or work from home. As part of our new ways of working policy, all eligible employees have the option to flex between working from the office or home, with two work-from-home days as the global standard. The freedom to choose my own work environment made me feel safe.
Change #3– Collaborating and Networking
Before the pandemic, it was not uncommon to see multiple in-person networking events a week hosted by different groups within Schneider Electric. It was easy to meet others in the company that were outside of your business unit. Once the pandemic arrived, this quickly changed. I love that Schneider Electric has adapted to make things happen virtually instead. I’ve attended a virtual baby shower, happy hour, and what one of our team leader’s likes to call our monthly group “water cooler” conversation. Even more exciting is that this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) will be held virtually and be accessible to so many people.
Finally, I’d like to share my #choosetochallenge photo for IWD. I will forge a gender equal world by showing my daughter you can have a family and a career no matter what challenges you face.
About the Author
Kara Mitchell is a Regional Project manager at Schneider Electric for the Digital Power Operations Team and focuses on managing smaller, high volume projects. She graduated from Texas Tech University in 2007 with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and in 2018 from Tennessee Tech University with an M.B.A. She currently lives on Franklin, TN and enjoys being active and spending time with her family.
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