Diversity Is Our Heritage And Our Future
Caspar Herzberg, Middle East and Africa President for Schneider Electric, talks about the company’s continuing commitment to gender equality.
Gender equality is inextricably linked to our common goal of a sustainable future. At a time when the planet faces existential challenges from climate change, we need to rethink our relationship with energy. Empowering women to contribute their best ideas on energy management and engineering helps us bring different perspectives to the table. Any obstacles that prevent women from making their mark can’t be ignored.
Gender parity also makes business sense, pure and simple. A recent study by the Peterson Institute and EY shows a significant correlation between women in leadership and company profitability. Companies with at least 30% female leaders had net profit margins up to 6% higher than companies with no women in senior ranks. Diversity and inclusion is a powerful driver, when it comes to business and tech innovation, entrepreneurial spirit and teamwork. Businesses that don’t foster it inevitably lose out.
This is why every Schneider Electric country president across the globe has made a personal commitment to the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs). We are the first multinational company to achieve this unanimous commitment from our country leaders and our global leadership, including our CEO.
The WEPs are seven steps that were designed by UN Women and the UN Global Compact to empower women in the marketplace, workplace and community. We believe they are a roadmap to enabling women to achieve their full potential, but businesses must do their part to adopt them. 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.
The first principle states that leadership promotes gender equality. Leaders can set an example, and every Schneider Electric company president is promoting change across their regional market and putting policies into action that will transform the face of our company. The process starts with us, but it won’t end there.
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 recent McKinsey & Company report shows a clear correlation between gender diversity and company performance. Women speak better to women, who are deciders, key leaders of communities and influential change agents in society.
Recognizing Women’s Empowerment as a Catalyst for Business and Change
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 16 years ago, women at Schneider Electric represented only 3% 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, according to the 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% of our global leadership, and we’ve set a goal to make that at least 30% by the end of this year, 2020. By the end of 2018, nearly 40% of our new hires were women. As of 2019, 46% 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.
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 and have committed ourselves to the HeForShe campaign, to accelerate our progress.
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% of our employees in 2018, and we plan for it to cover 95% 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% 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. As an example, we are currently in the process of rolling out immersive video conferencing for our Middles East operations that will allow female employees who are young mothers to work from home, providing them with a lot more flexibility at a time when they most need it.
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. But this change doesn’t just stop within our offices.
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 Egypt we work to integrate women into the workplace through our Female Technician Hiring Program.
Our efforts don’t end at job training. We also provide clean technologies, such as solar-powered lights, microgrids, 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, our CEO knows 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 genderbalanced world.