Diversity: the foundation of innovation
Kelly Becker, Country President for Ireland at Schneider Electric discusses the foundations for innovation.
Twenty years ago, when I began my professional career, I was often the only female in the room. Ten years ago, as I moved into management, my peers and direct reports were often male, too. Today, the business feels more vibrant, diverse, empowered and entrepreneurial, with the industry as whole making huge strides towards creating inclusive and safe environments, allowing both genders to thrive.
For Schneider Electric, diversity is an integral part of our history, culture, and identity. We want to create an inclusive culture where all forms of diversity are adding value to customers and employees. We all know, gender diversity and equality is no longer an option but a business imperative. Across Schneider Electric we ‘walk the talk’ by welcoming people from all walks of life, ages and cultures. For example, in Galway, Ireland, our innovative thinking comes from having 25 nationalities on the team. We enrich the business by embracing different perspectives and calling out bias, empowering every person to feel uniquely valued and safe to be at their best in our organisation.
Throughout my career I have been a strong advocate and huge believer in diverse teams. Being the only female in the room, I often felt that I was able to bring a different perspective with distinct thoughts and opinions that added value. I’m incredibly proud of the last team I built in the US in which 63% of my leadership team were women. That team, because of gender, race and experiential diversity delivered exceptional business performance. We made each other better because we valued the different qualities individuals brought to the team, creating a broader team environment in which diversity of all types was embraced.
When recruiting and building teams, I look for the motivation and potential the individual brings, how they share their knowledge with the team and how they support each other. I would tell anyone, “understand what gifts you have to give, and stay true to what makes you unique and valuable to an organisation”.
At Schneider Electric, we work towards a psychological safe environment where we bring our unique self to work, so that Diversity and Inclusion become less of a focus, but it is just the way we do things.
Being a minority in any situation can be challenging, it can feel lonely. However, I have always believed that hard work, dedication and a desire to constantly learn and improve set you apart in any crowd. While being “diverse” may have initially given me some opportunities, it is my unique skill set, the ability to deliver strong results and work smartly with customers and colleagues that have proven key to my professional success. In each opportunity I’ve pursued, I’ve focused on value creation for customers and the team. At times, the challenge may have seemed nearly impossible to overcome, yet my confidence has grown with each success. My recent international move is just one more avenue in which I am learning, growing and bringing different ideas into Schneider Electric Ireland.
Across Schneider Electric, we aim to build those same confidence boosting opportunities through a variety of programmes, including flexible working and well-being initiatives, that further enable our diverse and inclusive culture. It is key not just to empower diversity through policies, STEM initiatives and recruitment practices – but also to ensure inclusive practices and instil inclusive behaviours through training and leading by example.
It is inspiring to see positive change happening throughout the organisation - there are nearly 30% of women in top executive roles at Schneider Electric reporting to Jean-Pascal Tricoire.
At TUD (Technical University Dublin) Schneider Electric sponsors the ESTeEM Mentoring Programme (Equality in Science and Technology by Engaged Educational Mentoring), which is offered to first-year female engineering students. The goal of this initiative is to assist female students in understanding future career choices, the diversity of career opportunities that are available and how they will fit in to our male dominated industry. Our employees across Schneider Electric Ireland provide mentorship to the students sharing their knowledge and experience to help equip the TUD students to meet the challenges often experienced in their chosen industry.
Internally, one programme we have launched is I Want to be a Sales Professional, open to all employees to gain knowledge, skills, and experiences on the role of a Sales Professional, being hugely successful in attracting delegates from a variety of careers and with a number moving into a sales career.
Diversity and inclusion within companies and teams drives high performance, I’ve seen it first-hand. Ensuring that I use my own experiences to help guide others, I am now a strong coach to numerous females across Schneider Electric. I guide them to gain broader experiences and support them to recognise the unique and valuable qualities they bring and the huge impact they have on the organisation.
My ethos as a business leader is to look for the high-performance and potential an individual brings, build diverse teams, respect each other and be passionate about learning.
I also know having diversity is the foundation of creativity to build an innovative culture across my teams, so my guidance, support, advice is to look for potential, individuals who are motivated, passionate and have an appetite to learn….but most of all be open, enthusiastic and enjoy what you do.
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