Recognizing Women’s Empowerment as a Catalyst for Business and Change

Recognizing Women’s Empowerment as a Catalyst for Business and Change

by Jean-Pascal Tricoire

tweet me:
.@SchneiderElec believes that #DiversityAndInclusion breeds innovation, creativity, engagement, collaboration, and high performance, all essential ingredients for success. #LifeIsOn http://bit.ly/2JHI2Cy #HeForShe
Monday, March 25, 2019 - 2:00pm

At Schneider, we believe that great people make a great company. This drives our uncompromising commitment to inclusion and equity, and our goal of being the world’s leading socially responsible company. All of our employees must feel they belong and that they are uniquely valued.

We believe that diversity and inclusion breed innovation, creativity, engagement, collaboration, and high performance — all necessary ingredients for a successful workplace in an increasingly competitive and complex world.

Our commitment to gender equality

This March, to honor Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, we demonstrated our progress toward our inclusivity goals with the announcement that 100 percent of our country presidents, in all markets with 10 employees or more, have endorsed the UN’s Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs). We are the first multinational company to achieve this unanimous commitment from our country leaders. Under the WEPs, we’ll continue to pursue gender equality in our workplace while also promoting empowerment and advocacy in the markets where we do business.

Throughout this post, we feature stories from women working for Schneider Electric around the world. The first comes from Susan Uthayakumar in Canada.

"I am proud and inspired to be part of an organization where equal opportunity for everyone, everywhere is so sincerely embraced at all levels, embedded in our culture, and increasingly becoming recognized in the communities in which we operate. Over the past 14 years, I worked across different geographies in diverse and progressive roles in finance, acquisition, sales, business unit leadership, and, most recently, leading the Canadian operations. This has truly been a testament to Schneider Electric’s belief and commitment to diversity and inclusion as a key pillar for growth, and I’m excited to continue the journey." - Susan Uthayakumar, Canada Country President

We at Schneider have always been convinced that a gender-balanced and diverse workforce will perform better than a homogenous one. It is no surprise to me that a McKinsey & Company report shows a clear correlation between gender diversity and company performance. Women speak also better to women, who are deciders, key leaders of communities and influential change agents in society.

At Schneider, there are three ways we pursue our commitment to gender equality around the world.

First, we promote gender equality at every level of our company

When we started building a more gender equal company 15 years ago, women at Schneider Electric represented only three percent of our top 1,000 leaders. We weren’t the only company in tech facing this challenge. Our business in particular, at the crossroads of energy and automation, has not historically attracted many women. In the industrial sectors we serve, closing the overall global gender gap in the workplace at the current pace is expected to take far more than 100 years (The global gender gap report, World Economic Forum). This is unacceptable to us, and that’s why we’re taking action.

Over the last 15 years, we have made great strides. Women now make up over 20 percent of our global leadership, and we’ve set a goal to make that at least 30 percent by 2020. By the end of 2018, nearly 40 percent of our new hires were women. As of 2019, 46 percent of our board members are women, and three of our five major P&L are led by female executive committee members. We continue to advance career development for women throughout the employment life cycle, to ensure that we empower and advance top female talent up to the highest levels of our organization.

“It’s been over five years in Schneider and every day I come to the office to learn something new. I am privileged to work in an environment where both men and women are given equal opportunities.” — Kapila Mehta, Power Breakers R&D Group Head, India

As further motivation, we look beyond our company. We collaborate with and compare ourselves to other companies on common goals and benchmarks. We also align our business priorities on shared standards, including the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and committed ourselves to the HeForShe campaign, in order to accelerate our progress.

“Reflecting back on my early career as a female engineer in the automation industry, there was not much support, and earning respect was challenging. The flexible and supportive environment encouraged in Schneider Electric today has allowed me to progress and grow, and to make a contribution that is valued.” — Nathalie Marcotte, SVP, Industrial Automation Services

As part of our HeForShe commitments, we have deployed an equity review process to ensure equal pay for equal work. This pay equity framework covered 92 percent of our employees in 2018, and we plan for it to cover 95 percent in 2019. A year ago, we also deployed our inclusive Global Family Leave Policy and Flexible Work principles, providing fully paid parental, care, and bereavement leave to our employees, regardless of gender, to align with their unique life and work circumstances. Our ambition is to cover 100 percent of our employees with these principles by 2020.

Building a culture beyond the numbers 

Gender equality is not merely a question of increasing the number of women in our workforce. It is also a question of creating a work environment where everyone feels included. We know that an empowering culture is a critical element to attracting and retaining everyone, including women. Our commitment is to change the current state of play for real diversity and inclusion so that the women in our workforce can continue to lead and move the industry forward.

Creating a more diverse environment, where everyone enjoys working together, is not something to declare: It is something to build. At Schneider, our employees are engaged in our internal hidden bias learning programs, which build awareness of these biases and educate employees on how we can be more inclusive leaders, team members, and colleagues. We want to build a community where we all understand our differences, support each other, and feel we belong.

“Over the past 25 years, I have had a rich and rewarding career with Schneider Electric. I have held diverse leadership positions across sales, marketing, line of business, strategy and communications, and over half of my career has been in markets abroad, including Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the US.” — Leanne Cunnold, SVP, Internal Communications

For our internal efforts to promote gender diversity, we’ve been recognized by Equileap, Bloomberg, and most recently by Catalyst, for our leadership on gender equality and inclusion. This acknowledgment is strong validation of our global strategy. But internal change is only part of the equation.

Our second strategy is to accelerate gender equality and energy access globally.

Women are key members of our society. Yet around the world, women and girls continue to face discrimination. This bias deprives them of their basic rights to safety, autonomy, and employment, and prohibits them from accessing opportunities that can advance their quality of life and well-being.

It is part of our mission at Schneider Electric to provide opportunity and energy access to everyone, everywhere. To achieve this goal, we train women in electricity and energy management in many countries as part of our Access to Energy program. For example:

  • In Ghana, we collaborate with Village Exchange Ghana to train women through the Lady Volta Vocational Center. We provide technical skills that allow the women in the program to become qualified electricians.
  • In Brazil, we provided entrepreneurial support and vocational training to women to become electricians and start their own businesses.
  • In Egypt, we work to integrate women into the workplace through our Female Technician Hiring Program.

“I see women with great potential, who are equal to any person in the job market. The [Schneider Electric] business plan came to me as a big chance. It showed me how, step by step, I can get something in the future, have my own company, have my own business. I want to do that in the electric segment. It is important not to stop.” – Jeane Araújo, Women’s Entrepreneurship Program, Brazil

Our efforts don’t end at job training. We also provide clean technologies, such as solar-powered lights, microgrids and picogrids, and other household energy solutions, to families across Africa and Asia. This sustainable development activity delivers results. Women are key stakeholders in their communities when it comes to energy. They also stand to reap great benefits from improvements to their quality of life, including access to education, economic opportunities, and better health outcomes. Our investments in these regions also provide financial benefits, result in business and infrastructure development, and help address poverty.

Third, we believe all companies should be mobilized when it comes to inclusion.

As a member of the board of the UN Global Compact, I know that the business community can take collective action to increase inclusion and provide greater opportunities for education, economy, and advancement for women everywhere. An easy place to start is with a HeForShe commitment like ours.

We are still just at the beginning of the journey for greater equality at Schneider Electric, and we are unsatisfied with where we are now. One thing we know: Our company is much stronger and a much more enjoyable place to work because we have grown more diverse and inclusive. We’re a melting pot of genders and nationalities, learning from each other and embracing differences.

We can go forward together. As we celebrate the many remarkable achievements of women, we all must challenge ourselves to become catalysts for gender equality and call at every possible occasion for a more gender-balanced world.