In celebration of Pride Month 2021, Jill shares with us her experience about trust and vulnerability in the workplace. Jill Weaver is Director of U.S. Services of Schneider Electric’s Industrial Automation Field Services Business.
The idea of revealing our authentic selves to someone can seem daunting and a little frightening. It’s natural for leaders to fear the vulnerability that comes with sharing honestly about themselves. But it’s so important to be able to be yourself at work, feel proud of who you are, and encourage others to do the same.
When Schneider Electric put us through a program that focused on trust and vulnerability, it was a new experience for me. They said, “we want you to be yourself and let your teammates have your back.” That was a turning point for me; I felt I was finally able to be myself with my coworkers. When we started talking about ourselves, we started to open up and trust each other. We got to know one another on a deeper level. And they got to see and know who I really am. I could be vulnerable and honest about being gay and feel totally accepted and respected at the same time. Being open about who we are created a stronger connection with my team.
Being Valued for Who You Are
I’m very fortunate to work at a company with an open, welcoming environment where differences are embraced irrespective of race, gender, age, background or sexual orientation. At Schneider Electric there are no barriers to equal opportunities and growth. No matter who we are, here, we feel deeply valued and validated.
I’ve been at Schneider for 13 years and currently I’m Director of U.S. Services for the company’s Industrial Automation Field Services Business. I’ve held seven different roles since beginning with the company and have worked in corporate offices from Rhode Island to Long Beach to Pennsylvania. Right after college, I started working in one of the company’s offices in a rural area that was more conservative. It was early in my career, and I felt I had to hide that I was gay. I was careful about what I said. I never felt I could be myself. When coworkers would ask in a casual Monday conversation what I did over the weekend I was careful about what I said –
I didn’t want to say I went somewhere with my girlfriend.
Recognizing the DE&I in Your DNA
Obviously, that has all changed over the years as the corporate culture here has become extremely accepting and inviting. A lot of companies give lip service to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) and their dedication to improving those areas to create a more welcoming environment. It sounds good on paper, but when push comes to shove, their actions speak louder than words. Schneider, though, puts their money where their mouth is. In fact, it’s unbelievable how Schneider prioritizes people and celebrates employee differences. It’s not lip service. They publicly acknowledge PRIDE on Facebook and Instagram during June, even though some customers pushed back. They even threatened to take their business elsewhere. But Schneider stayed steadfast in their commitment to inclusivity. That said a great deal about the company’s priorities.
Here, DE&I is not something that gets trotted out and displayed only during PRIDE Month. It’s already deeply ingrained in the company’s values and culture. Schneider makes it easy for LBGTQ employees to participate in ongoing resource groups designed for their professional development and advancement as leaders. Throughout the year we get to hear new perspectives and personal stories from people from all walks of life. And that draws you closer to those co-workers.
Reflecting on Pride and Privilege
For PRIDE Month the company goes even further by hosting quite a few events, such as PRIDE historical trivia contests and a DE&I Walk. We didn’t skip PRIDE Month during COVID last year either. Schneider simply celebrated it in October and held PRIDE walks where the money raised was donated to youth shelters. It helped to remind us all of the privilege we may take for granted. And privilege doesn’t necessarily mean being born with money. It can mean a lot of things most people don’t often think about. For instance, if you’re born right-handed, you have a degree of privilege that someone who’s naturally left-handed doesn’t have. Lefties must adjust the way they do simple tasks because the world doesn’t easily accommodate their needs. It helps put our differences in perspective when we look at things that way.
Finding a Place to Be You
There have been so many opportunities for professional and personal growth here.
I went through the Transforming Leadership program at Schneider that teaches you how to be a strategic, dynamic leader for the company. Nothing has held me back from advancing in my career. Today, I lead a team responsible for $24 million in industrial automation services sales.
If I could give someone advice who is just starting out or looking for a place to work where they can be their authentic self, I would say think about a place where you feel you can belong. When considering corporate America, look for a company that puts people first regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexual preference. Above all, it should be a company that aligns with your beliefs.
I’m very thankful to work at a people-first, people-centric company. One where the number one priority is their people.
About the Author
Jill Weaver is Director of U.S. Services of Schneider Electric’s Industrial Automation Field Services Business and is based in Easton, PA. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a major in communications and rhetoric.
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